Here’s How You Can Focus More on Travelling, And Less on Tourism
So, you’ve booked a new destination, Instagram is filling your feed with amazing inspiration and you just can’t wait to get travelling! But hang on, while you have planned a seemingly effortless trip through the likes of Pinterest & Insta, do you really want to go where everyone else has been? Do you really want to see what everyone else has seen? Do you really want to do what has already been done? The answer is… Well, yes. Sometimes. Although you are reading this article to focus more on travelling, it is still okay for you to want to see the Eiffel Tower or Machu Picchu. And here’s why:
In recent years, there seems to have been a new era of entitled travellers born. They promote travelling as 100% sustainable, conscious and budget friendly. Yes, I became one of these travellers. I used to ask people at the end of their travels, “Oh but you didn’t go to the township for a “shisa nyama” or discover the hidden caves in the mountains?” with an apparent, huge disappointment in my voice. I just couldn’t grasp that you’d want to come all the way down to Africa and go shopping at a Waterfront, instead of having a “genuine, African experience”? I eventually remembered how I felt during my own travels, and realised that every traveller has a different story, path and way to make their journey unique. And it’s time to stop judging.
I had been met with constant advice with “Oh, you must go here!” and “You must do that!”- which at the time was a huge comfort for little 19 year old me venturing out in to the big, African bush (no pun intended!). However, I became too reliant. Eventually, I had to lose my travel books (and at least 1 item clothing per backpackers!), and learned to explore for myself. Sure, there were some incredible things I HAD to do - Table Mountain being one of them, however, I had so many more authentic experiences when I learnt how to write my own story.
Now, onto the bigger stuff that requires some actual attention. Here are (IMHO) the top 5 things do consider when you want to spend more time focused on travelling, and less on the tourism side of things:
1. The Community
Do not pay to volunteer… EVER. Countless times I hear people say, “Oh yes, I paid close to £2000 (R38,000!) to come volunteer in Africa for 4 weeks!” WHAT. This is madness, and I can promise you that 99% of the time, that money is NOT going back into the company in the way it should. My advice: Give back to the community. Make an effort with the locals and offer to help in an area you are skilled at.
2. The Accommodation
Try to stay in a locally built backpackers (this way you know your support is going back into the country that is hosting you) and better yet, try out a homestay! I’ve used https://www.workaway.info/ when travelling before and it was a truly unique way to experience a new style of accommodation, and meet some incredible people.
3. The Languages
Make an effort to speak the local language more. Yes, we are blessed that so much of the world speaks English, however, it is a far more fulfilling experience to converse in a new language! PLUS, the locals love it. In SA we say, “local is lekker”. Go check it out!
4. the Attractions
Spend less time focused on the ”must see” attractions advertised in your travel book, and more time travelling around, letting things happen more naturally - you don’t have to feel guilty about seeing those sights at all, but be sure to make time for other things too!
5. The Culture
Immerse yourself in the culture - this goes beyond trying a new food or learning how to ask for a beer in their language. Learn to appreciate the history of the country, and how their culture grew. Always ALWAYS be respectful, appreciate, and leave the cultural appropriation where it belongs - in the past!
So, it is okay for you to want a hugely decadent local meal after living off 2 minute noodles for the past 3 weeks. It is okay for you pay £30/R500 for a visit to a famous art museum, and stay on a friend’s couch for free. It is even okay for you to book into a hotel once in a while, to have a damn good sleep. I am not endorsing this for every day travels, but I do believe sometimes a little balance is necessary. And while I want to continue to commit my promise to conscious travelling especially, it is not always possible. I hope this has helped you in some way with your future travelling endeavours, and if you want to continue the conversation, share or comment below!
For me, the ultimate question is: Is it possible to be both a traveller and a tourist, or strictly one or the other? Join the debate!