“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” G.K. Chesterton

BARCELONA/ROME/SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Chronic overcrowding in some of Europe’s beloved tourism hotspots is fuelling an angry backlash, from polite protest to “Go Home” graffiti and even physical intimidation.

Across southern Europe, from the choked boulevards of Gaudi’s Barcelona to the swarms of cruise liners disgorging passengers into Croatia’s mediaeval Dubrovnik, residents are complaining that a sharp rise in tourism is making life intolerable.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-tourism-backlash-idUSKBN1AK24L?utm_source=applenews

The battle rages in the travel kingdom as to which is better: Tourist or Traveler? One look at the recent article posted in Reuters about the negative effect of tourists on iconic destinations such as Venice, Barcelona or Dubrovnik, and we would side with those who favor traveling.

Barb and I feel like we’re all travelers on this earth, just passing through this marvelous and mysterious planet–small wonder so many of us want to experience the world and its diverse cultures as often and in as many places as possible. We can’t blame anyone for craving the experience of tapas in Barcelona, or wine and art in Tuscany or wandering the ancient twisting streets of Dubrovnik.

So, how to be a Traveler and not a Tourist? How to see what we see? How to be open to that which is beyond what we have come to see?

On Eire Retour we make a point of connecting with local residents on many levels; we strive to be Travelers*. Though we can’t escape the reality that we are guests in another’s country, we make the effort to blend in rather than take away.

Here’s how:

  • The Retour is limited to 15 people; this keeps our footprint small.
  • We travel in May and September, avoiding the high tourist season.
  • We purchase and cook locally grown produce, farm-raised meats, poultry and seafoods.
  • We enlist the services of local experts to guide us in whose home we are guests.
  • We take the time and make it a point to get to know local shopkeepers and pub owners and frequent their businesses to feel–if only for ten days–that we somehow have made a connection on a human-to-human level.
  • We travel off the beaten path to experience pieces of culture and landscape that are often surprising, not necessarily “what we came to see”.

Through our small group size, sensitivity to local culture, and connections with residents fostered over time (and pints of Guinness), Eire Retour provides you with a travel experience that opens your eyes to see.

*(Note: in Ireland, Traveler has a unique meaning, indeed. A Traveler refers to one from a group of people that have Gypsy or Romani origins from the Ukraine or Hungary and who travel about the countryside, often embroiled in controversy and/or subject to discrimination. For purposes of this post we’re sticking with the notion of Traveler as one who travels.)