Two different ways to go on a trip

There are two ways to travel. One path is tourism. The other path is travel. Although they sound interchangeable and it is possible to walk both paths on one trip, the experience is entirely different.

The tourist has a destination

The path of the tourist

The tourist is primarily concerned about destination. Get somewhere and do something. The tourist likes to take photos of important artefacts such as buildings, statues, plants, animals and trees to preserve their beauty for later recollection. The tourist travels ‘fast and furious’ to get to each destination and collect as many snapshots as possible. Tourism is not very relaxing and pretty much a full-time job.

I experienced this when walking the trail to the Jomon Sugi tree in Yakushima. The Jomon Sugi is one of the oldest trees in Japan (and the world) and is highly revered by the Japanese people. As such, many tourists want to see it and go to considerable lengths to get there. First they have to get to the island of Yakushima (at least two flights or one flight/train and a long ferry from Tokyo), take a crowded bus for an hour and then walk 25 km return (which means getting up incredibly early for the day trip) to see that tree. Walking on the trail meant fleeing from hordes of travel groups who rushed to get there. Because those groups were so loud in their chattering, the tranquillity of the ‘forest bath’ was severely disturbed. In order to get any relaxation, we needed to leave the groups behind. As you can imagine, it wasn’t that relaxing or enjoyable to walk that trail. Once the groups arrived at the holy tree, they took a photo, had a tea and walked back again. Chattering and almost running.

It’s also possible to follow the path of the tourist while not sightseeing. I haven’t experienced resort or cruise holidays but the concept is the same. Instead of having many destinations, usually there is only one destination. That would be either “the ship” or “the resort” where the relaxation/intoxication takes place. The path of the tourist can also be trodden upon while going “off the beaten track”- it’s not about how remote the destination, but the frame of mind. Travelling the path of the tourist is in my experience quite stressful and results in requiring relaxation after the trip as well as endless photo sorting.

Travel is a journey

The path of the traveller

The traveller is primarily concerned with the journey. While the word ‘travel’ is interchangeably used with tourism it is not the same mode at all. Travel sounds more exciting and rough, which is why marketing agencies prefer it. A journey-focused trip comes only with minimal planning. Usually, only initial and sometimes final transport is all that needs to be prepared. The rest is up for negotiation during the trip.

What is the mode of transport? There are many options: By foot, by bicycle, by motorbike, by car, by boat, by train, hitchhiking, skateboarding, on horseback … The focus is on enjoying the journey and the surroundings. This means, the slower the better. While I personally find walking excruciatingly slow and prefer to ride a bicycle, even comparably fast transport by car can be made an interesting experience by either hitching a ride or taking a hitchhiker with you. Cycle touring is a great example of travelling if the route is not set and accommodation and en-route destinations are set on the fly.

The important thing with travelling is to allow yourself to float. Let chaos into your trip in deliberate doses.
Stop and smell the roses. Walk down a laneway that looks interesting. Eat strange food and reconsider the path many times. Obviously, travelling requires more decision-making and is therefore similarly exhausting as tourism. It is however much slower paced and rest days can be had much more easily. Because of the slower speed and longer duration it is harder for people in traditional jobs to go travelling and therefore it is a hobby mainly reserved for young people.

Journey or destination

Generally, tourism is more expensive than travelling (even adjusted for the duration). This is because tourism attracts bigger crowds and is therefore higher in price than comparably cheap travel on a self-propelled bicycle in areas with local prices. When I go on a trip I usually try and reserve time for both modes. Some part of the trip can remain unplanned and will be more akin to travel. Another part includes some tourism to see places that are worth seeing and eat food worth eating.