Are you a traveller or a tourist?

For many Westerners making their way around the world, "getting off the tourist trail" is a priority. In fact, the "off-the-tourist-trail" trail has become an often well-beaten path. You haven't really been somewhere, the reasoning goes, until you've experienced a whole lot of inconvenience, several crappy journeys on public transport and a bad night's sleep.

Personally, I'm happy to perch up poolside with a pina colada. If the only local I meet is the bloke serving the drink, I don't necessarily feel I've missed out on experiencing the locality - I've just seen one slice of it. Soon enough you'll encounter another locality and other locals.

In his new book Renegade, singer Mark E. Smith casts a dismissive eye over "people who have gone and 'travelled'. They lose so much of who they are they can't retrieve it, they just float around talking about travelling all the time. No stories or anecdotes, just talk of more travel, of more time in Cambodia or somewhere else equally as impoverished and war-torn. It's a similar mindset to that of ghoulish celebrities who quietly travel to [the] Congo with a school of cameramen and journalists. And once they get there they can't wait to start picking up young kids with half an arm."


He's unsubtle, but there's a kernel of truth in Smith's tirade. Enjoy the road (slightly) less travelled when you find it, but never turn down a good pina colada.