I have been a tourist and I have been a traveler. I observe for brief periods as I pass through. And I stop for extended periods of time in various cities as a full-fledged citizen inhabitant, setting down roots.
After a stable and stationary childhood and adolescence in one town in the middle of the American Midwest, I have lived in ten or so cities and scores of homes. I have not yet allowed roots to fully take hold. While I am in each place, however, I believe I am open to that locale being the homeland. I’ve learned that it’s the intention that is the key thing. And I take lessons and images and wisdom from each place, and leave real and conceptual detritus behind. Shards of my life in cities and apartments all across the United States and in several other countries around the world.
from The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (1949)
“He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler. The difference is partly one of time, he would explain. Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than the next, moves slowly, over periods or years, from one part of the earth to another …. [A]nother important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking. “
I have just read a play for consideration in a play development conference that uses a similar construct in conversation between two characters yet focuses not on time or intention but on bravery and daring or the lack of same:
“I thought at first you were a traveler, but I was wrong. You are a tourist — is plain — is simple. … The traveler is brave, bold, daring. The tourist — typical, scared.”
This idea of bravery versus fear to distinguish traveling from tourism is a new one to me. The passage by Bowles that has spoken to me for decades speaks to openness to possibility and the immensity of time and space and inhabiting each stop along the journey.
I expect to pick up my actual and metaphorical passports soon and feed my traveler’s appetite.