People who move around the world for pleasure, to participate in an event, to relax in a pretty setting or to visit family don’t usually think about making a distinction between travel and tourism. Most definitions of tourism describe an experience of going to a place for vacation to relax and have fun for specific length of time. Travel is often described as a journey of exploration where unfamiliar places are discovered in meandering, spontaneous ways–and may or may not lead the travelers back to the place they started either physically or psychologically. In 2010 the World Tourism Organization of the UN explained the maxim that all tourism is travel, but not all travel is tourism. Whether it’s called tourism or travel, memories of trips are intangible souvenirs that become part of the traveler’s life story.
Why do people travel? Travel advisor, journalist and author Seth Kugel explains links between travel and tourism in Re-Discovering Travel: A Guide for The Globally Curious Kugel aggregates and interprets historical sources, current data and his own widely traveled life to muse about human wandering. He authoritatively cites anthropologist Dean MacCannell who examines authenticity at popular destinations, and philosopher Roman Krznaric’s founder of the traveling Empathy Museum and Walk a Mile in My Shoes podcast. Among the 20c travel writers Kugel cites are Paul Bowles and Mark Twain who tell stories that reach across and through time.
“Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.”Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky, 1949
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad: Travel Book, 1952
Until I visited Croatia I thought my grandparents home villages of Mošćenička Draga and Poljane were in Istria. I assumed an Italian affiliation (Istria sounds like Italy!) because the towns were located on the Istrian peninsula, because my dad’s parents were immigrants from Tuscany—(Luchesi, like many Chicagoans), because during my youth (in the 1970s) Italy was a tourist hotspot and Istria was promoted in the US as the next best (and cheaper) alternative to Italian destinations. Back then Istria, Kvarner and all of Croatia were part of country that no longer exists called Yugoslavia. Croatia’s strikingly diverse beauty and easy access to the rest of Europe was gift for the tourist industry which thrives there.*
* Josef Broz Tito, President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1945-1980 famously created policies that gave Yugoslav tourism everything it needed to flourish in spite of contentious politics and economic policies in Eastern Europe. Even after Tito died and Yugoslavia fell apart amid civil wars, the Croatian coast experienced economic and social benefits of tourism.
My mother visited Croatia just once with her parents and brother when she was 21 years old. Five years before international air travel became available for ordinary people, my mother, grandparents and uncle crossed the Atlantic on the USS Constitution. They stayed the spring and summer of 1952 in my paternal great grandparents home on the Kvarner coast near Opatija. Although most of the time they were in the former Yugoslavia, they took a few side junkets to Italy. Their trip was motivated by a family event—my mother’s paternal grandparents who lived there were celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.
Mom’s adventures were mostly limited to family gatherings with one exception—my mother liked to swim so far out into the Adriatic she couldn’t see the shore. No sharks bothered her although she admitted that was just luck. Saltwater and sun bleached her hair. While her parents visited relatives and went sight-seeing she stayed with her grandparents to look after her much younger brother Jim. Mom remembered how being an American with basic Croatian language skills and practical, Midwestern sensibilities separated her from locals—she particularly remembered how her ‘doma’ way of speaking gave her relatives a good laugh. Mom’s Croatian heritage shaped her youth and is a springboard for my research today.
For some people the after-story is the most gratifying aspect of travel. Photos and videos are the most popular way to validate and/or valorize the trip. Symbolic objects like sea shells or ticket stubs help commemorate and narrate the experience for the traveler. Local artisanal goods like textiles are viewed by many as sustainable alternatives to mass produced merchandise like miniature Eiffel Tower souvenirs which comprise an impressive chunk of the tourism industry’s revenue. Would be travelers can purchase these goods with accompanying stories online at outlets such as Obakki, Novica and The Palmist–without actually taking a vacation. But for those who get on the plane, boat, or bike, travel memories are shared by wearing the t-shirt or are literally etched on.
When I was nineteen I took my first overseas trip. My grandmother pressed money into my hand as my mother sewed a small American flag embroidered decal on my backpack. After many years of listening (never closely enough!) to my parents and grandparents stories their memories now are in my care.