On my very first night in Bandhavgarh with friends, we were talking over differences between a traveler and a tourist. Each one of us had entirely different notion about the two terms.
One of the friend pointed out that they both are merely the same and cannot be distinguished from each other because it always comes down to personal taste and preferences of traveling. People who visit a place and limit themselves to specific tourist spots are also travelers because even they explore places in their own way. They might not be spending months in a place but even in the limited time they have, they make stories and moments worth cherishing forever.
Other one said that those who backpack or travel budget are the “travelers” whereas those who stay in luxury hotels, take packaged tours and moves with a guidebook are “tourists”. She said that traveling is all about connecting with the local people and culture, which is only possible when you travel budget, stay in a place for months, moves with the local people, eat the local food and learn the culture. To her, the same was close to impossible when you stay in luxury and do packaged tours. Thus, they there are the so-called tourists.
It was interesting to have their views, and somehow all had their own valid justification to their point. For me, irrespective on how you travel, where you stay and how much money you spend, traveling is all about exploring the unexplored. It is about understanding people, their language and culture, experiencing the underlying beauty in history of the place and its food. Traveling is about making conversation and new friends. It is how you seek out life.
On the last day of our trip, my friend and I were strolling down the Bandhavgarh Bazaar in pursuit of a good coffee shop where we could sit and relax for couple of hours. Mahua Kothi, a luxury resort in Bandhavgarh came to our thoughts instantly and we started walking in its direction. It was on its way where we came across a small residential house that was beautifully decorated with a cozy sitting place and a small garden on the front. A step further and we entered into a small handicraft/book store inside the house. The crafts were carefully handpicked by the owner from various parts of Madhaya Pradesh and could easily be distinguished from other stores in the bazaar. The book shop stocked new books, and old books which could be exchanged with your own used copies, and a small library. The place had an aura of its own. One could feel love and romance all around the place.
The owner of the place was a mid-aged lady who had hailed to Bandhavgarh from Gujrat and was offered the kind of quiet conversation you could only find in a shop like hers. She had a small but really interesting menu in her cafe. We ordered lemongrass tea and fell in love with it from the very first sip. Something in that place touched our souls. We sat there for over four hours, had four cups of lemongrass tea, made conversation with Neelam, browsed a bit in her shop, relaxed and felt rejuvenated. It was here where I got my answer for difference between a tourist and a traveler.
It was here that I realized I was the latter. I could never be the former.
There is very thin line between the two terms and it is quite difficult to lay down specific points of difference. One cannot judge people with the way they travel. But all I can say is that a traveler goes deeper.