I love the quote, be a traveler, not a tourist. Many people may not get this, or like me, have a hard time letting go of wanting to see everything. I have gotten much better at this, but, it’s still hard for me. However, as we travel more, and it becomes more of a focus for us, I find it easier. I know I want to see more, but I also know, I plan to go back one day. I can give up a few things and look forward to going back to see them on another trip. With this in mind, I decided to break down the difference between a tourist vs traveler.
The first thing in the battle of tourist vs traveler is not looking like a tourist. It’s usually easy for locals to spot a tourist among them. This is because a tourist may carry a camera, guidebook, and map at all times, wear the same clothing they would wear at home, and tend to stay in their comfort zones a bit. They do have much of a desire to learn phrases in the local language, they usually stick to major cities instead of venturing out to smaller towns or off-the-beaten-path locales and they stay in areas where the amenities are. Try to pack some clothes that are appropriate for the area you will be visiting. Or better yet, don’t bring a lot of clothes, and buy them while you are there. Great souvenirs! I do have to say, this guy took it a little too far, lol.
If someone considers themselves a traveler they will try to immerse themselves in the local culture rather than standing out. A traveler may try to explore the less-traveled areas and explore locations where tourism doesn’t drive the economy. They’ll try local food, interact with locals, and the goal for a trip will be to learn and experience new things, rather than to take a relaxing break from everyday life. A traveler may consider a trip a journey rather than a vacation.
If you want to win the tourist vs traveler conflict, here are a few great suggestions. Find a spot in town where locals seem to gather, and spend some time there. Make sure to strike up conversations with people of all ages. Especially the elders, as they are fantastic sources for helping you to better understand the culture of the city or the country you are visiting. Ask them questions about the local culture and talk about common interests.
Get on a bus, a train, a local bicycle hire. Do not be afraid to use public transport. You could meet new people, see amazing sights, and go to places that you might not otherwise. Best of all, you’ll save money. So many countries have unique forms of transportation. Why not use it?
Like I said earlier, learning a few phrases in the local tongue could help you blend, and could come in very helpful. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to two to learn enough to say “Hello”, “Thanks”, etc. Greeting and asking someone “Do you speak English?” in their language, before switching to English, will make the person appreciate you more than trying to speak directly in English. We learned this on our first trip to France, and can say that it is greatly appreciated. If you get stuck, you can always use Babel Fish.
Another way to win the battle of tourist vs traveler is staying at a Bed and Breakfast, or better yet, renting a flat, house, etc. We have done this many times and it really connects you better to the people in the city where you are staying. I have enjoyed sitting in a courtyard of an apartment (flat) and talking to some of our neighbors. They are a great wealth of information. We did this before Airbnb or home-sharing was a thing.
I hope you have enjoyed my post about the difference between a tourist vs traveler. As I said, I have tended to be more of a tourist in the past, but working hard on being a traveler and enjoying the experiences more than just crossing things off a to-do list. I have also tried to engage more with locals even here in the states. I guess I am improving, but it is still a work in progress, lol. Any tips or suggestions are always welcomed. Happy travels.
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