THE BLOG
08/12/2014 04:04 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2014

Are you a Traveler or a Tourist?

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If you dream of setting foot on distant shores, of strolling beneath foreign stars or if you can't wait to pack a bag and leave behind the familiar and the comfortable, then you, kindred soul, are a traveler.

There are bits of me all over the world; nail clippings in Taiwan, hair in Oman and skin cells in over 82 countries. It's not that I mean to leave a piece of myself wherever I go, but every place we travel is touched by our passing as we are altered by it. This is the life of a traveler.

There is a very big difference between a traveler and a tourist. A tourist is one who wants to do the same things they do back home, just in a different location. A traveler walks with respect and tries to experience that which makes their new destination unique. They talk to the locals, try new things, taste the food and learn a few phrases in a different language-they relish new experiences.

A tourist imposes their own culture on the place they visit and merely passes through, remaining unaltered by the experience. A true traveler is fundamentally enriched and changed by every new destination. This difference in approach is connected to intention. There are a million different ways to live a life and when you travel, when you truly immerse yourself in a new culture, you discover new and interesting states of being. It makes you question the way you live your own life and opens your mind to other paths that may bring you greater happiness.

If you are a traveler at heart, in every culture, you will find things that resonate with you and things that don't. You will question your own ideals and those that survive these challenges help to define your true self. Pitting yourself against the world is the best way to discover who you really are. Travel builds character and confidence. When you travel and move outside of your comfort zone you discover something profound; that you are a very capable, strong and innovative being.

The traveler also seeks to understand other cultures; every town, city, country and continent has a smell, a vibe and a lifestyle that it's longing to share. When you embrace these cultures, it encourages universal understanding, communication and appreciation. It is the antithesis of the kind of pervasive narrow-minded prejudice that leads one nation to take up arms against another.

Travel is the only way you can appreciate the wonders of your own country and look at your life with extreme gratitude. At home, you compare yourself to those around you and perhaps you envy your neighbor's car or their job. But when you travel, when you see the incredible difficulties that others have to overcome merely to survive, you will have a new appreciation for all the opportunities you enjoy and you will feel immeasurably blessed.

If you seek authenticity and to understand the incredible miracle of your very existence... travel. Never stop being curious, never stop exploring yourselves, your neighborhood, your country and all the places in the world where you have never been. Travel is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

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