For something a little different, here are six random factoids that every serious traveler should know about their chosen hobby/profession:
Know Your Defunct Deities
Although many backpackers are more inclined toward Dionysus — the Greek god of wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy — Hermes represents us travelers before his father Zeus.
Good for travel bloggers, Hermes is also the deity for wit, literature, and poetry. Hermes is the father of Pan — everyone’s favorite hooved guy with a labyrinth and violent-but-excellent Spanish movie.
If you lean more to the Roman side, Mercury is the god of travel and poetry — along with trickery and thieves. So the next time that tuk-tuk driver rips you off, remember that you two have something in common before you blow your top.
Know Your Patron Saint
St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel. The church walls in England contain more paintings of him than any other saint. Conveniently, Saint Christopher also covers sailors, surfers, and mountaineers. With that kind of resume, he is one busy dude.
If you’re itching for a pilgrimage, the skull of your patron saint is supposedly contained in a gold-plated shrine in Rab, Croatia.
Origin of the Word “Travel”
This is what you do, so you may as well know where the word came from.
The word travel is thought to have originated from the old Anglo-French word travail, which means to work, toil, and exert.
Anyone who has had a long day on the road knows that travel is rarely the Samantha Brown version of skipping between gelato stands while wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Real travel can be dirty, messy business.
The word travail has connections to the Roman word tripullare, which was a three-sectioned whipping thing used to not so subtly encourage unmotivated laborers. Our ancestors considered travel to be synonymous with torment and torture. They must have been flying United Airlines.
Traveler or Tourist?
The debate about the difference between traveler or tourist has been raging for a long time. Bored? Try calling someone at the hostel who wears dreadlocks and fisherman’s pants a tourist then see what happens. Backpackers consider themselves “travelers” because “tourists” are dolts who wear fanny packs on their expensive guided tours.
But here’s the deal: The United Nations set the definition of “tourist” in 1945 as someone traveling abroad for at least 24 hours and less than six months. So, unless your trip extends beyond half a year, sorry, you’re technically a tourist.
The United Kingdom was the first to promote leisure travel during the Industrial Revolution, and the first travel agency is recognized as Cox and Kings, formed in 1758.
Know Your Friendly Expats
Yes, this includes those older sexpats who start the day sat in clusters with beers and packs of Marlboro Reds on the table by 9 a.m.
Many people don’t like the word “expatriate”; it sounds like someone who is no longer patriotic to their home country. While that may or may not be the case, the origin of the word expatriate comes from Latin ex (out of) and patria (country or fatherland). So, technically, an expat is just someone who is out of their home country for an extended amount of time.
That means that by the strictest linguistic definition, if you stay away over six months, you are no longer a tourist and are now an expat. Go get a beer.
Captain Cook and Couchsurfing
Imagine: You’ve been on a boat with nothing but dirty swashbucklers and bad food for months on end. You arrive in Hawaii and get treated like European rock stars while grass-wearing, brown-skinned beauties make all your fantasies come true.
Needless to say, Captain Cook had a difficult time convincing his men to leave their new fresh-fruit-feeding girlfriends to get back on a boat bound for what could be months of more seafaring hell. In fact, some stayed behind, went AWOL, and were never heard from again.
After being gone from Hawaii for only a month, the mast on the HMS Resolution conveniently broke; high fives were slapped all around because the men knew where they would be returning: Hawaii.
Only this time, the expedition was met with less than enthusiasm on the beach in Hawaii — leaving behind a wake of pregnancies and disease tends to do that. Captain Cook was eventually hit over the head and stabbed repeatedly on his way down.
The travel lesson here? Be a good guest the first time. And remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”