Accidental Tourist or Intentional Traveler?

“It’s not by chance you write books telling people how to make
trips without a jolt so they can travel to wonderful, exotic places
and never be touched by them. Never feel they’ve left home.
That traveling armchair isn’t just your logo. It’s you.”
— Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist

Do you remember Macon Leary, the central character in Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist? Because he hated to travel away from the physical and emotional comfort of home, he was well-suited to write a series of travel books for people who needed to travel (for business or emergency) but wanted their destination to prove no more challenging than being “at home.” Chain restaurants and cookie-cutter hotels were an easy default for Macon’s target audience. His mission was to evaluate additional mid-price accommodations and eateries so that his readers would not find themselves in a place too strange for their narrow comfort range.

I admit that I have opted for an occasional familiar Hard Rock Café or Planet Hollywood when I could have enjoyed local flavors. (At the time I was “collecting” Hard Rock Cafés – but not their tee shirts.) But I have learned that embracing regional and independent businesses provides experiences much more in keeping with my trip as a whole.

As I have written before, some people are more comfortable with unfamiliar things than others. I understand that. A friend agrees that cruising the Caribbean does not provide much variety from island to island, but the reason he continues to cruise there in the winter is “I just want to be warm!” We all have our reasons.

But if you want to be a traveler attuned to the real world and sensitive to its needs, I suggest that you follow these guidelines.

  • Hire qualified local guides to show you around. This gets you an insider’s view of the area and guidance in the following suggestions too.
Tasting regional foods can be delicious and fun.

Tasting regional foods can be delicious and fun.

  • Eat local foods prepared by local cooks following regional methods. (Or at least taste them, says Mother Jane.) Such dishes can be exotic in ways that Foodies might not initially imagine, and they are authentic.
local artisans provide the most authentic souvenirs for any trip.

Local artisans provide the most authentic souvenirs for any trip.

  • Buy locally made goods as souvenirs. This supports the region’s artisans and helps to preserve the uniqueness of the location.
Titilaka Lodge in Puno, Peru, is a wonderful locally owned luxury boutique hotel.

Titilaka Lodge in Puno, Peru, is a wonderful locally owned luxury boutique hotel.

  • Stay in locally owned and operated hotels and resorts. Here “local” is relative. Businesses based in that country or region would qualify for me. They need not be “mom and pop” bed and breakfasts.
  • Follow any of these suggestions to keep your money in that region rather than pass it to corporations outside the country.

Let’s hear it for being an eager Intentional Traveler instead of a reluctant Accidental Tourist. Embrace the unknown, even if you have to approach it in stages. It is costing you time and money to travel to a different place. What is the benefit if you cannot tell that you have left home?

Yes, Dorothy learned there is no place like home, but she also learned that other places offer new friends, more colorful ways of doing things and a better understanding of yourself. So I say get out there to see how different other places really are, and then come home again.

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

16 October 2013

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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