Many people want to do it, yet the excuse always is "it's too expensive".
But is it? Can you travel on the cheap? And what are the risk? How do you avoid falling in some of the low-cost holiday trap? And most importantly what are the differences between traveller and tourist?
This is my breakdown based on personal experience and I don't mean for my personal account to be universally meaningful or valid - just to be a starting point / inspiration to some of you.
Traveller vs tourist
I see these two words as something with two very different meanings.
I would call a tourist someone who takes the flight to destination, reads the travel guide in advance and has a list of "sightseeing" to do, goes straight to the hotel (rigorously a chain hotel, or something offering at least free breakfast) using the route provided by the travel guide of choice or buys ticket in advance from the seller on the flight or the typical tourist guide on arrival halls in airports, takes guided tours, goes to all the museums and the "tripadvisors" 10 must see places, takes selfies with the "important" landmarks (without appreciating them really) and by dinner time he/she goes to eat at expensive tourist-trap restaurants which promise "typical cuisine". Also I see a tourist as someone who rarely would go alone, tourists often travels in at least pairs (couples, two friends..) or larger groups.
A traveller, on the other hand, is someone who has read about the culture of the place in advance (perhaps, or maybe not - maybe he/she wants to discover it as he/she goes), travels to destination, arrives and takes time to get accustomed to the public transport, finding a cheap and local way to get from the airport to the city centre, and from there walks, looking carefully around (up and around, taking the new place in), to his/hers accommodation. Accommodation-wise a traveller would normally be found staying in hostels (sometimes) in AirBnBs or, even better, couchsurfing. This will allow the traveller to get accustomed to the life in the city (e.g. by cooking meals in the kitchen, meeting with people actually living in the city, seeing the local houses and how people live). During the day, the traveller may wander around - seeing the sights, perhaps, sometimes by "accident". Most of the times the traveller would take in the sight from the outside, appreciating its architecture. At times, depending on personal preference, he/she may go in (e.g. some particular museums etc... depending on traveller preference, but these would be selected on personal preference not on advice from guides or internet sources)
Travelling on the cheap
As you can see from my above description, travelling can come at a cheap cost. Yes you still rely on low-cost flights companies however once you reach your destination (provided you don't choose a super-expensive-to-live-in country) you can experience the city from the local perspective. In my opinion a trip on the subway during rush hour and shopping at supermarket can tell you a lot more about a place than a guided tour! Plus you get new experiences and you develop new ways to deal with stressful situations, as you learn to become skilful with ticket machines and decipher weird languages and become quick with new currencies! Mention this at your new job interview...
Often room in houses such as airbnb are cheap and you get to speak to locals, hostels often are great places to meet like-minded people, and if you like adventures then I totally recommend trying couchsurfing (and also hosting people at your place). Couchsurfing is basically a free-stay in someone's apartment/room/couch/floor, however it is a lot more - you meet people, share experiences, great conversation, great food (sometimes the host will cook, sometimes you will cook, sometimes you will order in, sometimes you go eat out...) and it's always a cultural experience. And you get to stay in a real house!
The societal/environmental benefits of travelling vs being a tourist?
It goes without saying that being a tourist can have a great impact. Yes, sure, you may argue some places rely on tourist monetary input, thus by not being a tourist you are "robbing" them. However, just by being there and spending (even the minimum) I believe that you still feed into society. If you are a classic tourist, you often feed in big companies that own the big business chains of hotels, so effectively you are NOT helping the local economy. As an anti-consumerism person I am a strong believer that travelling is a better option.
Moreover, you will come back refreshed and for sure with some new perspectives!
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