Throughout my career, I have travelled extensively and have worked with customers on six of the seven continents and pretty much in all the major countries and even many developing countries. There is not much call for my professional services in Antarctica, so that continent is still on my list. It has been an amazing experience to travel so much and it is a life-changing adventure to open your mind to so many diverse cultures, peoples, and foods. You gain a greater perspective and enjoy a more accepting point of view when you travel and see the world.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
When people ask me about my business lifestyle of extensive travel, I tell them that I am a traveller. But, I am definitely not a tourist.
This always leads to questions and they naturally wonder what the differences are between the terms “tourist” and “traveller”.
Tourists and travellers are both people who travel to different locations. The difference is that they have different connotations and that one is a broader term than the other. All tourists are travellers, but not all travellers are tourists. The word ‘traveller’ simply means someone who travels.
A tourist is a person who takes a short break from their everyday life and goes on a vacation to some destination. They generally adhere to their normal lifestyle traits while away and they typically just visit sites to look at the features of their destination and enjoy the location attributes for pleasure.
It is usually easy for locals to spot a tourist among them. A tourist may carry a camera, guidebook, and map at all times and wear the same clothing they wear at home. Tourists tend to stay in their comfort zones a bit; they may speak only English instead of trying to learn phrases in the local language; stick to major cities instead of venturing to smaller towns or off-the-beaten-path locales; and stay in areas where the amenities are similar to what they have at home.
Whereas, a traveller is slightly different. Generally speaking, someone who considers themselves a traveller will try to immerse himself in the local culture rather than standing out. If you are a traveller, you may try to explore the less-traveled areas and explore locations where tourism does not drive the economy. You will interact with locals. Your goals for a trip will be to learn and experience new things, rather than to take a relaxing break from everyday life. A traveller may consider a trip a journey or an adventure rather than a vacation.
As a business focused traveller, the definition is again, expanded slightly as you go to destinations for work activities, perhaps for sales, consulting, engineering, or to interact with customers in a manner related to a project. These assignments can last much longer than a classic vacation, sometimes work trips last for many weeks or even months.
In fact, in my life, I have now lived more than a full year of my life in 15 different cities. I stop counting weeks after I achieve 52 weeks. That is not to say that I actually lived in these cities as a resident, but visited them repeatedly many, many times for business. For example, I recently added Las Vegas, Nevada, USA to the one year list. I have visited Las Vegas for 64 one-week long trips, all for work related events. I attended the broadcast convention there for 36 years, as well as a dozen other related technology conventions, each several times. I have never gone to Las Vegas for a vacation, just for work related trips.
So, I have spent over a year of my life in hotel rooms simply attending conventions in Las Vegas. I have stayed at most of the hotels on the Strip and some downtown. I would spend my money on a four day monorail passes to move from the hotel to the convention centre rather than in the slot machines.
Yet, I have never swam in a hotel pool, nor have I gambled more than one dollar during the past 20 visits. Why go to Las Vegas and not gamble? I once read a book that detailed how gaming is strictly regulated and controlled and knowing this information took the fun away in a blink of an eye; once I realized the statistical outcomes for gambling are heavily stacked in favour of the house, I decided that it is a fool’s game and not worthy of my money.
One of the biggest myths concerning slot machines, the perennial Las Vegas favourite means for gambling, is why there is any mystery about them at all. After all, game play is determined by math and the business rules, which are governed by Nevada’s strict gaming regulations.
In China, I have eaten foods that I was not even sure what it was that I was eating? The worse thing that I have eaten in Beijing was soy milk – a full glass of it. What dreadful stuff that is. But, it is a common lunchtime drink and since the Chinese do not metabolize real dairy milk well, they prefer soy milk instead. So, I honoured my hosts, but I truly hated it.
In the Netherlands, I discovered bitterballen. Bitterballen are a Dutch meat-based snack, made by making a very thick stew thickened with roux and beef stock and generously loaded with meat, refrigerating the stew until it firms, and then rolling the thick mixture into balls which then get breaded and fried. Yes, it is a heart attack on a plate, but I love it.
In Japan, I have eaten fish that could kill you instantly if prepared incorrectly. When I think of blow fish or puffer fish – also known as fugu (meaning river pig) in Japan – beautiful revenge comes to mind. When prepared improperly, eating blow fish sushi can (and does) kill humans. This little creature is possibly the one food that kills humans only after humans have already killed it. Ouch!
I cannot count the number of times that I have been hopelessly lost and not sure how to get back to my hotel. Yet, I always manage to find it after some efforts. One warm spring night in Tokyo, I walked all night until I found train tracks. Since I used the train to get to my location, my logic said to follow the tracks one way or the other and when I find a train station along the tracks, then I could see a map and figure out a way home. It worked. But the sun was up when I found the hotel and I started this quest at 10:00 pm.
At about the 10,000 foot elevation above sea level in the Chilean Andes Mountains, we were working in the Atacama Desert. Unfortunately, we accidentally beached our work truck. The Atacama Desert is a desert plateau in South America covering a 1000-km strip of land on the Pacific coast. The Atacama desert is one of the driest places in the world, as well as the only true desert to receive less precipitation than the polar deserts. Death is certain if you do not have shade and water. No one is there to help you, you are on your own to survive. Luckily, I used my Canadian skills learned from getting cars stuck in the snowdrifts to free us from the desert’s grip. Nothing survives in the Atacama Desert, not even scorpions, so this was a potentially serious incident. But, all ended well. Any Canadian who has ever gotten out of a snowbank would have figured out the same solution that I used. But the local Chileans were very scared.
When you travel, you quickly come to realize that the standards that you are use to at home are not always readily available elsewhere around the globe. For example, simple things that we take for granted, such as water and air. You can buy bottle of water in Beijing, but even if it is perfectly sealed, you cannot trust that it is authentic. Locals have the devices to seal caps, so they take tap water, fill the bottles, and sell them to the unsuspecting tourists. Sickness usually follows. When it comes to air pollution, it is hard to describe how bad it can be in third world countries. Beijing is the worst air pollution that I have ever seen, and breathed. I wear a N95 face mask in Beijing to try to filter out the airborne particulates. I always make sure that I have two Ventolin inhalers to manage my asthma when in China.
During my travels, I have been to cities with incredible population density. One day, I got up very early and took the train to the Ginza Strip subway station in Tokyo. I stayed there all day from 6:00 am until 7:30 pm. You see, I read that over 5 million people go through that station every workday and I had to see what this mass transit flow of humans looked like. I wonder how many people in the world have actually seen 5 million people in one day? I have!
The photo shown here is on an Air Canada flight on final approach into São Paulo, Brazil. The density of homes is insane. During my travels, I have been to several major world cities with incredible population counts. For example: Shanghai – 24.1 million, Beijing – 21.7 million, Tokyo – 13.5 million, São Paulo – 12.0 million, Seoul – 9.8 million. Santiago, Paris, New York and London are much smaller in comparison to these larger cities. Now these are actual city populations. The cities with the surrounding areas are much larger, for example the greater Tokyo area has a population over 38,140,000. It covers an area of approximately 13,500 km2 (5,200 mi2), giving it a population density of 2,642 person/km2. The area has the largest metropolitan economy in the world, with a total GDP (nominal) of approximately $2 trillion (¥165 trillion).
Nearly 60% of all people on the earth live in Asia alone. So, if you do not like crowds, do not go to Asia, India, or South America. Maybe it is best to just stay home? I have found out there is no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. Once people are out of their native environment, they suffer stress. So, when you travel you experience many challenges and learning how to cope is critical to success. I know that I can solve any issue. So, I am relaxed in the face of adversity.
Mark Twain is know to have said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
So, remember the old adage, A ship in a harbor is safe, but it is not what ships are build for. So, go on an adventure. Be a traveller.
Walsh, K. (2018). Differences Between a Tourist and a Traveller. Leaf Group and USA Today. Retrieved on September 10, 2011 from, https://traveltips.usatoday.com/differences-between-tourist-traveller-103756.html
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now Ontario Tech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.