Van Lifestyle

To Be a Wanderer or a Tourist?

Last updated on March 18th, 2018

Wanderer’s set out to find their own way. They avoided anything with the word tour in it. They don’t want to be seen with ‘those’ people. You know the ones I’m talking about. They hold up obnoxious maps and have a camera strapped to their necks. They may even resemble the people that raised you. These people stick out from a mile away and screamed gullibility.

The Life of a Wanderer

In my teenage years, I vowed never to become one of those people. I didn’t carry a camera unless it could fit in my purse. In those day’s camera’s were bulky things. I would leave the map in my car and study it before getting out, walking confidently around as I explored. I thought guidebooks were archaic things. They only had the tourist destinations anyway. I didn’t see the point in purchasing them. If ‘tour’ were listed in the name, I would steer clear altogether. My goal was to not be a tourist.

I wasn’t limited to the narrow field of vision form a camera lens, or worrying about getting the perfect shot. I would use my eyes and see it all. For once, I could just be there and take it all in. But what did I miss? I have very few pictures of those adventures. I saw a lot, but I didn’t know what I was looking at. To me, it was just a building. A place where people worked or lived. But what was its past? What are the secrets hiding inside? I was so worried about that image of a wanderer that I missed out on the details.

What Changed?

When I decided to take a trip to Hawaii, I finally broke down and got a guidebook. I wasn’t sure when I would be there next. I wanted to know a little more about the island. I quickly found out how excellent guidebooks are. They showed me secrete beaches and blowholes that tourists never visit. We found a hike that took us to an epic waterfall. We even found out about the $5 cash only fee to enter the top of Diamond Head that they spring on you after you’ve climbed 173 steps up the crater. After that, I was sold. Guidebooks are the way to go.

Wanderlust mountain top. The life of a Wanderer

Are Tourist Attractions Bad?

A thing becomes touristy for a bunch of different reasons, mostly because they are good. Word catches on, and now everyone wants to go there. Just because everyone knows that Café Dumont sells the best beignets in NOLA, should we avoid it? Heck no, I want to see what all the fuss is about. It’s the reason my sister and I traveled to NY to see Niagara Falls. We even decided to take a trip down the base of the falls and stood under it. It was incredible.

We took a detour on one road trip to a Ben and Jerrys factory. As fans of the ice-cream, we wanted to check it out. Sure, it’s touristy and a little gimmicky but why not. During the tour were learned so much about the ice-cream and their commitment to the community and the environment we are customers for life. In my hometown of MPLS, I took a Gangster Tour and found out that in the 1930s the cities was a dangerous place to be. I would never have found out these great things if I wasn’t afraid to be a tourist.

Tourist destination also the place to find fun shops. You can’t avoid it and sometimes you shouldn’t. They are filled with overpriced and poorly constructed items that are supposed to represent the area. Or at least what they want you to believe. How many people buy a Mardi Gras Mask but never wear them on Bourbon Street. They end up at home on a shelf as a piece of art, and I’m OK with that. I often visit them and will occasionally purchase gifts for other there if the price is right. These shops can represent some of the best and the worst parts of tourism. But you can have a lot of fun exploring them.

The Wondering Tourist

The goal is to strike a balance between the two. I strive to be both. I think wondering is healthy. Sometimes you can be so stuck in a guidebook that you forget to explore on your own and discover new things. At the same time, if people are talking about it, there is probably a reason why. And you never know what extra knowledge you may come home with. For more on starting your adventure, check out The 2 AM Principles: Discover the Science of Adventure

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