The difference between a traveler and a tourist.

April 29, 2019

As I sit on a balcony of Austin’s fancy-ass library, I find myself a traveler. I live out in the suburbs, and I venture downtown often to feel the hustle and bustle around me while I work or walk around. There’s always something to see, even though I haven’t come to see anything in particular.

That’s traveling. G. K. Chesterton put it best: The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” One is present for whatever happens on her trip, and one shows up as if obligated to see a sight and move on to the next one.

Between Coming to our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön, I’ve read a lot in the past month about being present in the moment—seeing what you see, not coming to see the world as you wish it. While I’m a perfectly content traveler at the moment (even in my own city), far too often I show up to lunch, call a friend, or speak to someone like a tourist; as if I’m obligated to be there and I’m supposed to enjoy it.

Why take that attitude, when I could be present? I could listen not only to their words but also experience life as it comes to me? Nobody at the end of their life wants to say they attended’ life like a concert. They want to have lived.

Start now.