After a few conversations with some well seasoned travelers, I have accepted the fact that I am not a traveler; I am in fact, a Vacationer but hoping to make the transition to Traveler. Up until recently, I didn't realize that there is a distinct difference between the two. Just in case there are others out there in the same state of confusion, let me tell you what I've been told.
Vacationer - someone who visits a particular location and is interested in tours, things to see and do. Has no interest in the people, culture or history of a country. Will spend most of his/her time "vegging" out and relaxing for a few days in a beautiful location while staying in plush accommodations. Vacationers don't like being uncomfortable and will complain about things such as being too hot and will certainly not drink tap water.
Traveler - someone who immerses him/herself in a country. Usually in this place for an extended amount of time, blending in and getting to know the people and the culture. Not interested in tours or group activities and not usually concerned with the small details, but will take each day as it comes, sometimes working odd jobs to finance their continued travels. Travelers are often uncomfortable and will backpack, sleep in tents and/or with a group of other travelers they just met on the train - but almost never in a lush hotel.
Now, while I have some Traveler traits, I do have more Vacationer traits than I'd like to admit. For instance, some of my friends call me a "hotel snob" because my first question when approached about a travel opportunity is "Where are we staying?". Now I know most of you are in the thought camp of "I'll only be sleeping in the room", but ONLY is a strange word when it comes to sleeping and after a day of activity - I would really like to get a good nights rest. Being comfortable is a big part of that!
The biggest struggle I will have in my transition from Vacationer to Traveler is the immersion in the culture, more specifically, the food. Let me first say that my diet at home consists mostly of burgers, pizza, and anything pasta (horrible, I know). So, when I travel, I usually stick to the same routine, but will add some fresh seafood and fruit. However in some countries they leave the head (and eyes) on the fish! Eeewww - creepy. And I am very sensitive to smells. Anything that had a strong smell, or even too spicy, forget about it.
As I mentioned, I do have some Traveler traits. For instance, I'm very interested in the people and history of a destination. I will take some time to read about my destination prior to arrival. I try and get to know their customs and a little about their history. In between my beach time, I will visit any any historical or architectural sites in the area. I will take public transportation, walk the streets of the city, and go to local hot spots; usually alone and not on a tour since I don't like to be on someone else's schedule (which is why I don't cruise, but that's another post).
I know my journey from Vacationer to Traveler is going to take some time and adjusted thinking. Being aware of the differences and allowing myself to be open to the experience is a good start. Besides, I will drink tap water - that has to count for something, right?!