Here Thar Be Monsters!

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14.10.10

On Traveling and Touring

In life, there are two basic kinds of people. All behavior, all personalities, all characters can be distilled down into one of these. Unlike other classification systems, there is little or no cross-over. You are absolutely one or the other.

In essence, all people are either travelers or tourists. You may not think there is a difference, but bear with me on this. When I am finished, you will see that this system is a fine way to classify anyone, and there is no need for such things as matrices, since there are only two ans ince they are absolute.

On the one hand are Travelers. Travelers are the group that include adventurers, thrill-seekers, life-long learners, entrepreneurs, and people for whom safety zones are confining and restrictive. This group would include pioneers, discoverers and people for whom pushing the envelope is just starting to get fun. A traveler avoids major highways and interstates like the plague. For them, going to "popular" tourist destinations is the antithesis of excitement. If millions have done it, then what's the point in emulating their experience?

Travelers are easy to identify. They commonly carry multi-function tools every day of their lives. At the airport, train station or boat landing, they are often alone and all of their baggage is highly practical, completely portable and doesn't require checking anything for handling. If you were to examine their baggage, you would find everything in it to be of multiple use, and most likely they will be carrying a towel (a tourist expects towels to be provided wherever they go).

A travelers will rarely interact with natives of their own land. They prefer to mix with locals, learn the language and eat the same food and in the same manner as those of the host country.

Travelers rarely carry cameras. Where they go is for their own memories, not for entertaining the meek back home. Furthermore, they don't want to attract the wrong people to the places they like to go, so they don't advertise the locations and experiences. Even with photos to proves it, most people wouldn't believe their stories anyway. A location where a traveler is most unlikely to meet others of their kind are the places that attract them. Travelers prefer the experiences that no one else but the natives have experienced.

The Tourist, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, and comprises the vast majority of people on Earth. These are the people who have made America what it is: purveyor of the repeatable experience. These are the people who go to Paris, meet only with other folks from the home country, require guides, stay in Holiday Inn, eat at McDonald's, and then go home and say that they have been to Paris.

The Ugle American is the quintessential tourist. They only speak Merican and think the whole world does. If a local doesn't understand, they speak louder and slower, thinking that will solve the problem. They can't imagine that anyone would want to be anything but like themselves. They want to go to the Eifel Tower, because somehow the millions of photos spanning the entire history of the object is not enough. They must go and touch it like a million other people. Tourists think that a somewhat stable pile of steel girders is a worthy object of pilgrimage. They can't wait to get home and regale their friends with tales and photos of what it was like to ride the elevator to the top, as if that is different from any other elevator ride available up the street at home.

The tourist is easy to spot. They wear garish clothes and, at the sirport or train station, they are the ones with a trolly loaded six feet high with baggage. To them, losing the make-up kit is a major catastophe that threatens the stability of the Free World.

The tourists wants a repeatable experience. They want the hotel, meal or tour that they are comforable with at home, and have experienced many times. Their biggest thrill in life is to be able to say, "Me too!" Their entire goal in going on a trip is to take a photo of themselves in front of some landmark. They wake up at night in a cold sweat at the thought of running out of traveler's cheques.

The traveler and the tourist both collect souvenirs, but the objects the traveler finds are mostly meaningless to anyone but themselves. The tourist buys the little key chains and paper-weights and refrigerator magnets. The travelers spend most of their lives far outside their comfort zones, where tourists have never even explored the limits of theirs. A traveler will try some unknown food where the tourist is shocked if the local KFC doesn't serve original recipe.

In short, the tourist goes to the Grand Canyon and looks down in the hole from the safety of the Kodak Moment overlook, while the traveler hikes deep into it with only minimal concern for life and limb.

So, what does all this have to do with the price of tea in China, you ask? Good question. The The next time you hear some "authority" give dire warnings of terrorism and offer to take away your freedoms to save you, check your reaction. If you think it's a good idea, you're a tourist in life. If you immediately have a desire to go to the heart of the 'danger zone' to prove it's all bullshit, then you're a traveler. The traveler knows that the real terrorist is the one who tries to manipulate you with fear.

The great Merican Imperialist, FDR said it best, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

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