Do you consider yourself a traveler? If so, why? What is your definition of a traveler? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of a traveler is “One that travels.” (Shouldn’t that be “one who travels,” Merriam-Webster?) Other than a potential grammar issue, this is not a surprising definition. However, it’s also kind of vague. Do they mean a person is only a traveler while they are actually traveling? Or can one be a traveler in between travels, too? For instance, what about those of us who have nine-to-five jobs? Do we only count as travelers for the handful of weeks per year we are able to travel?
I don’t know about you, but I think I would take a little offense to think that the only people who are considered travelers are nomads, who are constantly on the move. What about the “round the world” travelers who travel constantly, but only for a few months or years before settling down in one place again? What about people who travel all the time–but for work? Do they count?
Being unsatisfied with Merriam-Webster’s definition of a traveler, I dug around the Internet a bit more. The Free Dictionary defines a traveler as “One who travels or has traveled, as to distant places.” Aha! Now we’re talking. I like this definition better, as it’s more inclusive. As long as you’ve ever been anywhere other than where you are now, you’re a traveler. Of course, there’s still the issue of “to distant places”. How distant is distant, Free Dictionary? Is there a radius involved? Can you be a traveler if you only travel domestically? Or if your primary travels are within a day’s drive of where you live?
The truth is, I don’t think we can let a dictionary define who we are or who we consider ourselves to be. Only we can do that. I sometimes see a bit of insecurity among travel bloggers who aren’t on a round-the-world trip and who aren’t nomads. (Although how much of it is insecurity versus travel envy I sometimes wonder. . . .) I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, because a) I have travel envy myself, and b) for financial reasons, I might have to cut back on my travel next year, and I’ve been agonizing a bit about how to be a travel blogger if I’m not traveling as much. Suze Guese touched on this subject recently in her post titled Quantifying and Qualifying Bragging and Travel. What really gelled my feelings for me was when I saw Candice Walsh’s comment on that post. She wrote:
I know exactly what you’re talking about, met a douchebag who did the same not too long ago. I said I was a travel blogger and he scoffed when I told him the low number of places I’ve been. I’d rather count experiences than countries, wouldn’t you? Arg.
When I read Candice’s comment, I was indignant on her behalf. How dare someone dismiss her like that, when she’s pouring her heart and soul into the travel world every week, week in and week out, via her blog? There are any number of reasons someone who loves to travel can’t actually be traveling for a period of time, not the least of which are family, finances, job, and health. And in fact, some of us don’t want to be nomads or go on a lengthy round-the-world trip, living out of a backpack for months on end. So I’ve come to feel that if I have to cut down on the number of trips I take next year (it might drive me insane, since I pretty much live to travel, but) it won’t make me any less a traveler.
To me, the dictionary definitions of “traveler” are missing a crucial component: Passion for travel. So ask yourself this: Do you love dreaming and planning for travel? Do you read as much as you can about other places and cultures? Do you travel as often as you can afford to, given your circumstances? Then in my eyes, you’re a traveler.
I’m sure others would define it differently, and that’s okay; I’m not going to let someone else’s definition change the way I view myself. What about you? How do you define a traveler? Does your definition hinge on frequency or scope of travel, on the number of countries visited, on destination, or is it more about having a passion for travel? Or some other criteria? Do you think your definition is a fair one?