Tourism vs. Immersion

Growing up traveling, I have experience with several different kinds of trips. I grew up visiting places with my family, but also visiting my parents’ home country of the Philippines. Just comparing those two travel types, I had a very different travel experience in both. When we went to Europe, we were doing popular experiences and seeing well-known sites. However, when we would go to the Philippines, we would stay at my grandparents’ farm in the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya, a rural region of the Philippines. The experiences were completely different—immersion is much more of an “authentic” experience, but tourism is a way to see important cultural or historical sites that many local people may not even know much about. When considering my own travel experiences, I have done a study abroad program in Arezzo, Italy with the engineering program. At that program, I did not become friends with any Italians let alone even really meet any Italians. One thing I’ve noticed with programs such as those based in Arezzo is that it seems like many students use it as a vacation in order to experience being in a different place with other OU students. While that is okay, I personally prefer to see how people of the country live and things that are important to them. In Bhutan, we have had the opportunity to meet many Bhutanese people and talk to them about their lives and thoughts on their country and culture. We have made genuine friendships with many of them, which was something that was never even really offered at the Arezzo program due to the OU in Arezzo campus. Now when I travel I make it an important point to try to talk to as many locals as possible to get a feel for how their experience actually is. While tourism is still fun and can be a great experience, I always think that tourism can be done while immersing oneself in a culture but never the other way around.

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