Slimbach describes three types of travelers: the mass tourist, the carefree drifter, and the mindful traveler. The mass tourist is the person who thinks nothing of the places he or she goes to. This person wants to go to as many places as possible while taking an absurd amount of pictures that they will put in a photobook back home and most certainly never look at again. The mass tourist does not ask questions nor does this person stop to think about what is before his or her eyes. Simply put, a mass tourist doesn’t reflect. Now, a carefree drifter is someone who goes with the flow and lives on autopilot while doing travel related things. Because of this autopilot, a carefree drifter can never reach the mindful traveler status. A mindful travel stops and thinks. A mindful traveler asks questions about not only why things are the way they are in the new culture, BUT also why and how his or her presence affects the new culture. The mindful traveler has an intentional awareness that they are a visitor, a foreigner in new lands distant from his or her home. With this intentional awareness, as Slimbach writes, the mindful traveler can, “…grow in worldly wisdom while enriching the lives of others” (74).
Personally, I feel have a connection to all three of these types of travelers. This type of traveling is new to me, as I have never been away from my home for such a long time. Like the mass tourist, I definitely want to see many things and I do take a fair amount of pictures. When I go to other places not in Perugia, a tourist is what I essentially am. However, when I am in Perugia I don’t think of myself as a tourist. I think of myself as someone who lives here. It may be temporarily, but I am certainly a member of the community. However, I believe that I connect with both the carefree drifter and the mindful traveler.
As a carefree drifter, I attend certain events that are travel related and that demonstrate aspects of the Italian culture. For example, I’ve been grape picking, attended wine and food tastings, dined at some amazing local restaurants, hung out with and practiced my Italian with locals, went to an Italian opera, and I’ve even taken a few ice cold showers. So, I have certainly done many things that are new to me and that are specific to the Italian culture. Yet, I think of myself as a mindful traveler when I think about how my presence affects the locals here and also why things are the way they are. Like I said in an earlier blog post, I have really felt what it is like to be a foreigner and how I would think twice about seeing a foreigner when I return to the States. On a different note, I also think about why things are the way they are. There’s a cathedral here in Perugia, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Inside the church is a beautiful, encaged display of a ring and a painting behind that ring. A mass tourist would think, “Wow how beautiful” and then take a picture. But I believe a mindful traveler would want to learn why that was even there. And that’s what I did. It turns out that ring is the ring Joseph proposed to Mary with. And long ago, the Perugians stole it from their rival city, only to let them display it for one week during the year. A mindful traveler wants to learn about the place they are in and simultaneously learn how his or her presence affects those around him or her.
Our class defined a global community as something that is, “comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights.” I think we all desire the same things: food, a home, family, love, things like that. But I would change the definition to mention that while we share the same desires, we also work together to achieve what we want. We’re a global team and we come together no matter what backgrounds. We’re kind and we love each other.
I think that it is important to be mindful of things like this. That while we come from different places all over the world, we must remember we are really the same. Our cultures are different, but we must recognize these differences to see behind them what it is that makes us so similar. It’s hard to completely engage myself in the culture since I am always with American students. But, I am getting better at it. Mindful traveling is certainly a key characteristic to participating in this global community. Even though I am with Americans often, I will continue to do my best in separating from them at certain times. I am also not going to stop asking questions. Questions like how and why the culture is this way. If I stopped asking questions and I stopped being curious, this would all be a waste.