The Traveler Condition

“Traveling is a way of thinking. We are travelers because we feel like travelers, because we share values, a curiosity, because we feel the call of nature, the call of the road, meeting new people or simply for adventure!”

Traveler: Someone who frequently travels outside of his country, his place of residence, one who used to travel. Definition from «le petit Larousse», 2016.

(Editor’s note : Le petit Larousse is the name of the French dictionary)

No offense to “le Petit Larousse 2016 edition, » but I think this is the stupidest definition ever published by a dictionary. With this definition, we can’t be a traveler if we travel in our own country, even if it’s for several years or thousands of miles. I would love to know the point of view of Argentinian travelers who have traveled thousands of miles within their own country. Besides, we cannot possibly be a novice traveler, since we must have « used to travel. » You, who loves to dream, packing your backpack and hitting the road, stick in hand, are not enough, you must first prove to “le Petit Larousse”, with supporting photos of a foreign country, that you are a skilled traveler with experience!

This is stupid.

Traveling is a way of thinking. We are travelers because we feel like travelers, because we share values, a curiosity, because we feel the call of nature, the call of the road, meeting new people or simply for adventure! We like to discover new cultures and share ours, laugh about the meaning of words in other languages nd teach ours to others! We also love very strongly; each unique moment, each person who helps us and that we help and smiles given to an unknown person or received by him in a pure moment of sharing.

This is not an issue of kilometers, or time spent on the road.

It is funny to realize that all travelers instinctively feel the same way. Soon, the kilometers we’ve traveled have no more importance. All that counts is what we have experienced and the fun felt on the road. You’re quick to say, « I remember this time when … » or « I met this Israeli singer, it was a unique experience » and share all of the anecdotes that made us laugh, cry, and feel alive. We all ask other travelers how long they’ve been on the road, not to compare, but because we wonder how long they’ve had this chance and if we will be able to enjoy the trip as long as they have. The more experienced help the ones who are just starting by giving them gifts or advice, and sometimes traveling with them. And all (all!) of us hate being called a « tourist ».

I remember meeting this French traveler, Julien, who, after his girlfriend called him a tourist, stood up and left, leaving her alone until the next day. She wasn’t attacking him, just trying to share with him her point of view: that anyone who travels outside of his country is, by definition, a tourist.

  « Tourism: Action to travel, to visit a site for pleasure »

Definition of «le petit Larousse», 2016.

I think that his reaction was exaggerated, but completely understandable. The purpose of the journey is meeting people and, again, sharing culture, participating in local life, understanding what is happening elsewhere and evolving, thanks to the people we meet and their way of living. We think that a tourist just moves from one point to another. He goes to a place, takes photos and spends money to visit touristy attractions before returning to his hotel. Then he will take a plane back home and will be able to say « yes, I went to Peru and saw Machu Picchu, it’s so exotic!  » Expressing this idea may seem to lack humility but I feel that a tourist doesn’t go to meet people, he doesn’t leave his comfort zone. When he has no money, he just goes back home. It’s in adversity, when we have no place to sleep or just $5 in our pocket, that the traveler realizes that he has no other choice but to find a solution. And each person who helps the traveler to realize his dream, each person who gives him food, a roof, a few kilometers by car or just a smile, becomes a hero and a savior. And he has to give it back to the world, in one way or another. This is what makes the journey so beautiful and the traveler so rich.

I have met many people who call themselves tourists, here for a 2 week vacation, or even for a month with a guide and 5 star hotels. I still considered them travelers, because, even if they have their way of doing it, they went to new places, met locals, shared what they had with those who needed it, not receiving anything in return, or at least, nothing material. And on the contrary, I met a lot of people defining themselves as travelers, but who were nothing but tourists. When you’ve spent 4 months traveling in Chile and you don’t even know how to ask for directions in Spanish, sorry dude, but it’s probably because your wallet is too heavy, it’s weighing you down, so that you can’t even look around to find some dignity.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that the traveler is not better than others. It is very easy to say that we are better than the poor tourist, who only has money. Or that we are freer than this couple that just had a child and works every day, sitting each evening watching TV because paying for a babysitter is too expensive or because they are both too tired to go out. Our situation forces us to be very careful about our own pride, which has a nasty tendency to make us swagger. « We are travelers, adventurers!  » We can forget that we only have to take care of ourselves, and our journey has value only if we use our energy to become better people and to make the world a better place.

We are, however, useful to society, because we are, by our way of life, antisocial. If you look at the numbers, or if you ask the pension system what they think about us, we are useless. This is obviously incorrect. We participate in a balance. Although we’re nomadic, we can’t exist and live without society. We walk in the cities and in the countryside, meeting people who live and work in these places. It’s society’s workers who pick us up when we stick out our thumbs, their holidaymakers who offer us food when we tell them our stories. Everything is about balance between security and freedom. The more security and comfort we feel, the less freedom we have. I made extreme choices, as many travelers do, to leave safety and enjoy freedom to the fullest. I’m on the road without knowing where I’m going to sleep at night, sometimes I have no more access to water, but then I look at the one-liter bottle hanging on my bag and I continue to walk in the pampas, confident.

That’s what I can share with the stationary. My condition leads me to think, and I share my thoughts with people who have never, or rarely, imagined that there is another way to live. I support those who, like me, have always dreamed of traveling. I open myself completely, and people who are not necessarily used to experiencing strong and positive feelings from strangers, react instinctively. They share with me. Thanks to them, I could often eat my fill, and sleep in a safe and comfortable place. In return, I give them all that I have. A souvenir found during my trip, something that has value for me, but most of all, I give them something that cannot be bought. This is how balance works, because I give everything I can, and all that I have is not made of money. And they realize that any dream is affordable. I often think about Benjamin, the young Swiss guy who, after a difficult period, prepared his bag to take a holiday in Norway, to have an adventure. He found more than a rest in an exotic place. He realized that it is possible! At the time that I write this, he is preparing his own journey. I am proud to have been able to share with him the little I knew about traveling at this moment.

I am a traveler, not because I travel, but because I feel like a traveler. My condition is linked to movement, but when I decide to stay in a place that I like, I am still a traveler. One day I’ll go see my friends and family that I miss so much. I’ll probably spend a few months there, but I’ll remain a traveler. I try to make the world a better place, I live by my values nd I do as much good as possible. I have discovered the most beautiful landscapes that exist and have met the most incredibly good people that I have ever seen, and fortunately, there have been many of them. I try to spend all of my energy to learn as much as possible about myself and to enjoy the moment. So I walk, smiling, and I like to think that it’s contagious.

 

Originally written by Sebastien Lambrosi via www.skullythetraveler.wordpress.com