This week I’ve had a couple of conversations with my international students about travel vs. tourism. The word traveler should not be substituted with vacationer, tourist, visitor, sight-seer, trekker or day-tripper. However, it could be used instead of pilgrim, explorer, voyager or seeker.
A vacation is meant for relaxation and rest. Travel is a learning experience.
Having never ventured further south from Vancouver than Seattle and no further east than Banff, at a very young age I went to Peru. Right away, I knew I had a tiger by the tail. I sensed that my life would change… and it did.
Never again would I view things in quite the same light. The people I met opened their hearts to me and I discovered the meaning of hospitality. Complete strangers took me into their homes; they fed me and showed me the way.
In Peru and other South American countries, I felt great joy as I actively learned about new cultures. I walked over the dunes of the Atacama Desert; rode a banana barge down the Amazon; and I went to Machu Picchu.
When I returned to Canada, I indeed appreciated “the true north strong and free” but I missed the quaintness; openness and freedom of my travel days. By a lucky twist of fate, I ended up in Mexico and many opportunities to relive the early experience have presented themselves.
When I hear people say, “Why travel, you’ll just spend a lot of money and too soon it will be over and you’ll be left with nothing,” I have to disagree – fervently.
For my students who will depart Mexico within 24 hours, I offer you Robert Frost’s amazing poem to take with you…
The Road Not Taken
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference