2001 LatinAm. v1: Español
2002 Austr./NZ v2: Español v2: English
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2004 SthAmer. 2004 - v3.1: Español 2004 - v3.1: English
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2007 Asia 2007 - Español
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The quote: Maybe this world is another planet's hell. (Aldous Huxley)

Want to be a vagamundos?
I've met travellers who were travelling wearing "horse blinders" and tourists who showed a genuine interest and sensibility for their environment. The main difference between a tourist and a vagamundo is the personal attitude, although when you travel in groups with people who you don't know and with settled itineraries it is harder for that special and magical moment to happen, that moment that usually makes some journeys unforgettable. Here are the most important diferences between the two ways of travelling, and if either of them convince you to take the leap and adopt them, congratulations!

  1. You have your life organized, your work, your family, your social engagements, etc. You have a month's holiday. Do you really need to know exactly what you are going to do in that time without giving improvisation a try? Then your thing is a package tour. On the contrary, if you have ever been to a place that has captivated you specially and you would like to further discover it on your own and then the guide's voice says "-All aboard, the bus is leaving!" and you obey groaning , then your thing is non-planned travel, which doesn't mean it has to be un-planned.
  2. For instance, if you're spending two weeks in the Caribbean, are staying at a resort from a Spanish hotel chain, all included, you are having international food but are among fellowcountrymen and you don't venture out of the resort because you've been told it's dangerous, then definitely you're fond of package holidays. But, if you travel on your own, are interested in other cultures, you talk to the locals, you taste their gastronomy, you ask others where they've been so that you can better choose your next destination, then you are a traveller.
  3. To me, the most important thing when travelling is the human touch. If you travel in a group, an unsurmountable barrier builds around you; the chances you have to get in touch with the locals are only when they try to sell you the typical hat or necklace; being a traveller means to blend in as much as posible with the environment and try to become another one in the community.
  4. Last but not least, pay no attention to those lies we are told to not be a traveller
    • It's more expensive to travel on your own. That's a lie. Even in the most expensive and developed countries with luxury type tourism, you can always find acommodation for all kinds of travellers, that allow you to stay at a nice and clean bungalow on the beach for 10 to 20 Euros/dollars.The same goes for the transportation
    • it's very dangerous to move around by yourself and you're nuts if you travel alone!. My personal experience tells me that the most exposed people are those tourists who go together in a bunch and seem to wear a neon sign telling "I'm a tourist, I have 1000 dollars in my wallet, rob me!". If you behave prudently while travelling, don't show jewelry or expensive watches , or produce a 1000 $ note to pay for your coffee, the chances of you being mugged are much lesser than if you travel in a group.

If you feel like making your next trip free style, the most important factors to make it a success are:

  • Open your mind. Our life patterns are different, but not better or worse than those of the rest of the world. Don't expect them to adapt to you, it's you who are passing through.
  • Travel light. Once you've decided what to take with you, what you really need is half the half of it.
  • Be solidary. When you’re travelling in a group, what you have paid for the package will probably go to a tour operator and a hotel chain that pay miserable salaries to the local employees. Try to make use of the local facilities, stay in their local hotels, use transportation or go shopping in local establishments, so that your money will benefit directly their depleted economy.
  • Be flexible. However pissed off you may be, that bus you've been waiting for for 6 hours won't come earlier, maybe it’s late because it turned off its route to collect somebody else from another town. Why don't you use your time to talk with that local guy who might teach you more about life in 5 minutes than any master’s degree that you might have?

This attitude does not only applies to those great journeys to far-off, third-world countries, but also to your own country, for if you think it over and psych yourself up into that attitude, the quality of your journey will increase notably.

I'd like to finish this article with a quote by Ortega y Gasset: "Travel is not just moving through space. More that that, it is to accommodate the spirit, predispose the soul and learn again” and another phrase from Paul Theroux: "The tourist doesn´t know where he has been, the traveller doesn´t know where he will go". This is the main difference between a tourist and a traveller.

Hope you think this information it´s been helpful.

See you somewhere around the world!!.

Translated by Luis Gómez on November 29th, 2002.

Carlos Olmo

Published: 03/01/2008 00:00

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