Are you a Tourist or a Traveler? Well, let’s see here, what is the difference between the two words? The Merriam-Webster dictionary seems to think that they are nearly one and the same. The trusted book defines a tourist as “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture” and a traveler as “one that goes on a trip or journey.” There really isn’t much of a distinction between the two.
However, in the pompous travel community, a big, intimidating line has been drawn between these two similar terms. Being called a tourist is more condescending than being called a traveler. The tourist has been distinguished as a sort of amateur traveler, and a traveler has been distinguished as more of an experienced tourist. It sounds strange, but let’s see if we can clear things up a bit.
You need to be a child before you can be an adult, likewise, you need to be a tourist before you can be a traveler. An all-grown-up traveler knows what it’s like to be a tourist and actively avoids most (if not all) “tourist activities.” Tourist activities are things like planning a short week-long trip out weeks in advance and hitting all the popular sights, it’s staying in a nice hotel, eating at fancy restaurants, taking photos of yourself so it looks like you’re holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa…just to show your friends back home.
The traveler avoids these over-crowded activities and seeks the road less travelled as to appreciate the real culture of the destination. Trust me, you want to be a traveler if you want respect from both the locals and other travelers alike. Here’s how you do it:
A traveler has no schedule set in stone. Only broad ideas of the trip are in mind with little or no attachment to them.
Don’t eat at a McDonalds
Everybody get homesick, but you didn’t just travel halfway across the world to eat food you can get at home.
Don’t rush to big attractions
A traveler can still see the huge, popular attractions in a country, but don’t make seeing them a priority.
If it’s free or cheap, do it
The locals probably don’t spend “tourist prices” for their activities and you shouldn’t either.
Taking buses, trains, and bicycle hires are a way better way to experince a region.
Make friends with a local
Learn some of the local language and head to a restaurant or bar. You might be amazed at the special private tour you may walk into!
Stay in a hostel or inexpensive guesthouse
If you spend the money for a 5 star hotel, you’l probably want to spend more time in it than outside enjoying your travel experice.
All in all, the most important difference between a traveler and a tourist is time. A tourist is only on a vacation with little time. Resulting in a rushed, consumer oriented, crowded, sight-seeing, and photo heavy vacation. A traveler has more time; time to get lost and not miss a flight, time to understand a region through all the senses, time to learn the language, and time to be carefree and unburdend by a trip planner.