4 Ways To Be A Traveler, Not A Tourist

Tourist or traveler? The debate rages on.

Let me start with an example. The scene: a gift shop at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It’s almost completely free of tacky souvenirs, and instead full of meaningful books, DVDs and other informative materials about Jewish culture and history, which befit this truly fascinating museum. As I stand near the counter browsing a shelf of novels, an English-speaking tourist runs in.

“Excuse me, where’s the book that everybody buys?” she shouts in the general direction of the two shop assistants, who are both serving customers. Being mid-conversation with said polite customers, they don’t respond immediately.

“Oh, so you don’t speak English? Where’s someone who speaks English?” says the rushing tourist.

One of the transactions has just finished, so a shop assistant tells her, “I speak English, how can I help you?”

“I just want the book that everybody buys. I don’t have time to look. My tour bus is waiting outside,” the tourist says loudly.

The shop assistant manages a weak smile and reaches up to a shelf behind the counter. Taking down three or four books, she briefly explains the contents.

“But which one does everybody buy?” repeats the woman. Not getting an answer quickly enough, she throws her hands in the air and says,

“Forget it, I don’t have time now,” and runs back out of the shop.

No tricky guess that these actions — and they’re real, I watched them open-mouthed — are those of a tourist, in fact of the worst kind of tourist. But if you want to be a traveler rather than a tourist — to me, that means experiencing a country and its culture from the inside, rather than simply taking pictures of it as it passes by your tour bus window — it just takes a little bit of effort.

Tip 1: Learn Before You Land

There’s no excuse these days: internet or guidebook, library or online forum, there are plenty of ways to learn something about even the most obscure destination before you travel there. In fact, I think that’s one of the best parts of traveling. As well as reading up on some of the places I hope to visit, I also love to read novels that are set in my destination or biographies of some of its most famous citizens. Depending on your personal interests, you might like to source some locally-made music, or use the internet to listen to a radio station broadcasting in your destination. As well as becoming familiar with the place and its culture, you’ll get even more enthusiastic about your trip.

What do you need to know? Most of it depends on you, but there are certain basics that I’d like to say go without saying — but you’d be amazed what some people don’t know. Check these off your list: basic geography, the name and rate of the local currency, language and dialects, capital city and major towns, unusual customs, any dangers. Get deeper in the areas that interest you.

Eiffel Tower, Tourist Scale
Eiffel Tower, Tourist Scale / © danorbit

Tip 2: What’s the Rush?

Ban this sentence: “I have to see X, Y and Z today because I might never visit this city again.” If you do rush around to all three sights you probably will never visit the city again, because you’ll have destroyed all the pleasure of traveling there.

Learn to schedule things slowly, even if you have only a short trip planned. Prioritize the sights you want to see and allow plenty of time. This includes time for sitting in an art gallery cafeteria musing over the paintings you’ve seen and deciding which ones warrant a second look, and time standing near an old castle people-watching, picking the locals out amongst the visitors, imagining what their daily lives involve.

A corollary to not rushing is not checking off lists. There is no rule that you have to ascend the Eiffel Tower when you visit Paris. When somebody asks you about it on your return home, no matter what they say, it doesn’t matter if you missed it. Your answer is simply, “No, we spent an extra afternoon at the Picasso Museum instead. He was such a fascinating man.” If your friends no longer think you’re fascinating, talk to someone else about your travels.

Tip 3: Foreign People Are People Too

While you’re traveling, make an effort to get chatting with local people. Don’t stare at locals behaving in a manner different to what you’re used to; don’t treat them like sightseeing objects; and most importantly, don’t think they’re inferior if they don’t have an iPod or have never seen a computer. Real travelers know that people are extraordinarily similar the world over.

Learning a bit of the language is an important part of connecting with the locals, even if it’s just a few words. An alternative is taking a pictorial phrase book to help start a conversation, or a paper and pen to draw pictures and maps. It works, really.

Young Nepalese Girl
Young Nepalese Girl / © febpanda

Tip 4: Get Local

One of my golden traveling rules is that there is very, very rarely a good reason to visit a fast food franchise that you know from home. If necessary, get some tips from a good guidebook for a local restaurant or eatery, ask people where you’re staying, or simply follow your nose on the streets and pick somewhere that looks interesting.

The same goes for accommodation, in my view. If I have a choice, I’ll take a no-name hotel over a big chain every time. There’s nothing worse than checking into a hotel in southern China, walking into your room, and feeling like you could be anywhere back home. You travel to have new experiences. Surround yourself with them whenever you can.

75 Responses

  1. Carlene duBois

    I never eat the pastafazool when I could have some ethnic McDonalds in every country I visit for 8 or 10 hours.

    Actually, I wish cruise lines would learn your lesson. We’re landing in Venice and you all have 6 hours to see the sights then we’re on to Santorini. Come to a port and stay for two days. Give a small chance to experience the place. Have some ‘non-canned’, non-cliche guided tours arranged. A visit to a local family or a school.

    Reply
  2. Kirsty

    Oh god, not this old chestnut. You can do all of those things but you’ll still be a tourist… just a less annoying one. Actually I take that back, you’ll probably be more annoying because of the whole surperiority complex going on and I’ll probably want to punch you in the nose. But I won’t.

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  3. Blush

    While I prefer staying in a “local” hotel / inn, I have seen the benefit of staying in a Marriott/Hilton. When you’re overwhelmed by trying to get around when you don’t speak the language, there’s a comfort of returning to my hotel at night and KNOWING that I’ll hear English and signs I can read. Then I stayed in a small town at a local inn where there was no English, and I couldn’t find anyone to help direct me around.

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  4. Mike Richard
    Mike

    Kirsty: Yeah, it’s an old debate. Amanda’s reviving the proverbial dead horse, but I think it’s still interesting.

    For me, it’s not about calling myself a “traveler” just so I can feel superior over the less-informed, ignorant “tourists”. I’ve been a tourist on plenty of occasions. After all, taking a cruise really doesn’t allow you to absorb the local culture. It’s about hanging out in the sun, drinking, and … that’s about it.

    The difference is simply a state of mind. It’s about recognizing that being a traveler entails blending with and absorbing the culture a bit more.

    Reply
  5. Mike Richard
    Mike

    Blush: That’s entirely understandable. There’s nothing inherently wrong with staying at a Hilton, et. al. while traveling. But if you’re traveling long-term and plan on holing up in four and five-star hotels for the duration, I think any rational person would agree that you’re not truly experiencing the local culture. At some point, you have to step outside your comfort zone – it’s at the heart of travel.

    For my own RTW trip, I plan to start off in “easier” backpacker locations like Europe or Australia before diving right into India or SE Asia. Baby steps, baby steps.

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  6. Noah Kern

    i travel internationally for work. the locals in macau, made fun of me for eating mcdonalds all the time. but you know what? i didn’t get sick like i did in korea. i had some local food, that didn’t look fresh from the fish tank, or was chicken foot soup. in response to other items, my itinerary is not my own, so every spare hour i get i am out and seeing stuff. and i do have to hit the highlights, sometimes, if i get a day off, i usually just walk for the whole day. in my work, i interact very closely with the local people for a long time, so i really feel like i make connections, there are some people who i have had as friends for a couple of years now. as far as hotels go, i don’t make those choices either. but i will say that i am really glad when i walk up to the counter and they speak english.

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  7. Stacy

    Tourist or Traveler, it’s all just labels. The important thing is showing good manners and being respectful of other cultures while you learn something new.

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  8. Amanda

    Yep I think Stacy’s said that every well. I don’t care for the tourist or traveler label either (there’s so much caught up in them) but being respectful of other cultures, whichever way you’re traveling, is the key thing.

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  9. Karen

    Traveler versus Tourist the endless debate (a timeless classic)…
    During a trip to Paris, France, I stopped into a souvenir shoppe to browse and I overheard an elder couple’s conversation. The wife was pointing out the Eiffel Tower memorabilia to her husband in a all too loud voice she repeatedly criticized the makers for spelling the name of the Eiffel Tower wrong on the items. As she boisterously persisted, I slowly walked over to her and enlightened her of the fact that indeed the manufactures can spell and they spelled the name correctly, IN FRENCH! The Eiffel Tower in French is called La Tour Eiffel.

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  10. Boris

    Why bother with discussing if you’re a tourist or a traveller? It’s wasted energy. Stacy put it very nicely…

    Reply
  11. Mike Richard
    Mike

    Boris: Just to frost the arses of other bloggers. ;)

    I’m kidding of course. I completely agree with what Stacy said above. It’s all semantics, but still fun to discuss nonetheless.

    Reply
  12. Mel

    #4 – On my first international trip, I was fifteen and in Paris, my friend and I were lost after a very long day at the Louvre, it was cold, it was raining and we were hungry and tired. We couldn’t find any local restaurants that were open. We saw a McDonalds. No. Absolutely not. We’re in PARIS for crying out loud, I’m not eating at Mickey Ds. I don’t even eat at McDonalds at HOME. But then, hunger won. We went inside.
    I now make it a point to visit one American fast food join in every country I visit. There’s something about seeing something that is supposed to be one way, and seeing it interpreted by a different culture. The food tastes different, the menu looks different, but only slightly. Those slight differences are so not what you are expecting that you notice them more.
    So yes, I ate at a McDonalds in Paris. And I enjoyed my Happy Meal and Beer, thank you very much.

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  13. gill

    Your tourist was clearly American not English, get your facts straight!!!!
    Same language different species!!!

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  14. Sam

    I’d say there is a difference between a traveler and a tourist. A tourist is on a guided tour, hence the name. but smartmouth comments asideWhen I was in Japan for about a month and a half (I was lucky enough to have a friend teaching English there, so no hotel bill) and had lots of time to explore Small town Japan. Ono Cho in Gifu has about 25,000 people. I know that Japan is probably the most westernized of the Asian countries, but it was still vastly different in culture. I loved going to the local Tomidaya to buy groceries. Of all things, the Avocados and Chicken were fantastic and cheap. I think people thing the cost of living in Japan is high because most go to Tokyo, Nagoya, etc…
    Also Having a conversation about ancient egyptian spirituality with a Japanese woman who barely spoke english, while I barely spoke Nihongo using a japanese english, english Japanese dictionary, was one of the coolest things I have ever done.
    I say, if you get a chance to go to a country, go small town and stay as long as you can.

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  15. Scott McNeely

    My take is, these labels are real AND meaningful, at least at the extremes. When traveling abroad we’ve all encountered people (even worse: they’re from your own country) acting obnoxiously and inappropriately, insulting the locals either intentionally or not. This is the real crux of the tourist vs. traveler debate. Of course, it’s hard to know if you are guilty of this type of behavior, it’s not the sort of thing you can control, I guess. All I can say is, just don’t act like you’re at the mall ordering a grande no-fat frappuccino with extra foam at Starbucks. If you avoid that mindset (just keep reminding yourself, I am NOT at the mall ordering a grande no-fat frappuccino with extra foam at Starbucks) then my guess is, you won’t embarrass yourself when traveling to a foreign land.

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  16. Amanda

    gill, I just said she’s English-speaking: as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter what her nationality was. There are good and bad tourists from every country (including mine, Australia).
    Sam, you’re totally right about getting out of the big smoke, and your experience in Gifu sounds fantastic, I’m jealous!

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  17. ioni

    there is very, very rarely a good reason to visit a fast food franchise

    Oh really…
    In this world learning that the country is basically part of the Muslim world is to check with the legislation for alcohol and drugs policy (smoking rules, if you prefer), gay rights (well, for me, really), places to meet people et cetera. Now I shall also add – check the religious holidays as well – this year I have arrived to Morocco only to find out that Ramadan just started and – really – there is no other way to eat during the day – unless you go to Mac, for instance..
    Well, now it is on my check list every time I go off…

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  18. Amanda

    ioni, I have to agree, there are not many good reasons to visit a fast food spot. It always makes me think of the girl I met in Krakow, Poland, who wasn’t complaining about there not being a MacDs open for breakfast – tragically, there was – but she was complaining because the breakfast muffin she was used to in her home country was different in Krakow. I went off seething and calmed down in a little Polish cafe with some yummy bliny (pancakes) for my own breakfast.

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  19. ioni

    True :)

    In Warsaw I had a lovely place in the old town – and I just happen to know the owner – so I would rather have pirogi rather then blini, but I suppose this comes close to the tastes that differ :)

    However, thinking of Warsaw – on one lovely morning, at about 7 o’clock, Mac was the only palce in town that was open – and I was jsut off the train and hungry as hell! Well, a lovely walk and has helped me to pass about 1 hour and get to the local coffee shop – and spend there about four next hours!

    Am being a tourist or a traveler after easting in Mac when I feel compelled to? :)

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  20. Amanda

    ioni, I guess that comes under the heading of a very good reason, when nothing else is open. I’ve also been inside “those places” when the very good reason is that I need to use the bathroom! I don’t think we have to be labeled as “tourists” for these small indiscretions … but some would probably argue that point!!

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  21. Rayven

    This post really made me smile, and brought out the wanderlust. And though I have never heard the “tourist” vs “traveler” debate before, it really made me feel better to know that my plan to take the kids to Europe and “see stuff” when they are teens is not as odd as some people in my family are saying it is. I don’t want a plan. I just want to see whatever we are interested in, and really jump into the culture of where ever we are.

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  22. Amanda

    Rayven, glad to make you smile! And I cannot emphasize strongly enough: your plan to take your kids to Europe without a strictly planned itinerary is PERFECT! Not only will you discover all kinds of things that you might not find in the tourist brochures, I’m sure that your kids will also get more out of the trip if they know they’re part of the decision-making process. In fact, my parents did something like this with me and I’m sure it really shaped the rest of my life (in a good way!).

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  23. Rob

    The assumption that tourits are ruder than ‘travellers’. Is wrong I have met numerous long time, slow moving etc. ‘children of the world’ who are just as ignorant/insensitive as a weekend tourist. I think the main difference between the two is the egotisitcal superiority complex of the ‘traveller’. Not over local people, but over short term tourists. And another point, some people are not fortunate enough to realise that french etc. is a language whats the harm in them learning the hard way! should they stay at home forever and never widen their expereince, probably limited by no fault of their own.

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  24. Daniel (danorbit)

    Thanks for putting my photo to illustrate your text! But, I don’t consider myself as a simple tourist as I always study about the places I’m planning to go, experience their culture, language and everything when I’m there. And I like to take pictures of course… but this one specially was only for fun! So I think that I didn’t like the ‘label’ you put in the caption…

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  25. bhaktapurgirl

    I just said she’s English-speaking: as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter what her nationality was. There are good and bad tourists from every country (including mine, Australia).
    Sam, you’re totally right about getting out of the big smoke, and your experience in Gifu sounds fantastic, I’m jealous!

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  26. Robert

    Or, stay at home at get to know yourself. After all, everywhere you go, there you are.

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  27. josel

    I think this is a very interesting web. I consider that the debate between tourist-traveler can be a little disturbing for some people but I think your advices are really good in order to experience another places and to make very nice memories. I honestly feel sorry for those who wont experience the world, only will tour 6 hours in foreign countries. I liked your web.

    Reply
  28. mike

    have enjoyed all of the comments. For what it’s worth, I have been to bucket loads of countries and been seriously off the beaten track. And you know what? I am still a tourist. :)

    Reply
  29. Europe A La Carte Blog » Blog Archive » Welcome to the first Travel Blog Carnival

    [...] 4 Ways to be a Traveller not a Tourist on the Vagabondish blog advises on how to ditch your worst tourist traits and don the mantle of the more acceptable traveller. I wholeheartedly agree with tip 2: not being in a continual rush and taking time to soak up the local atmosphere. This approach is described by travel writer Jan Morris: “The best way to find out about a place is wander around. Wander around, alone, with all your antennae out thinking about what’s happening and what you see and what you feel.” Vagabondish is a multi author blog with features about offbeat backpacking, and news, advice, tips and tales about travel. [...]

    Reply
  30. Alexis

    I think the good way of traveling is being a good balance of both, such as going to the popular places, yes, but acting typically touristy rude, NO!

    I’ve found that the best way to experience a place is to stay with relatives or friends, if possible, who live in the area. Ask them to take you to some places they would recommend, and to take you to local places as well, like restaurants, supermarkets, theatres, that they (and other locals) frequent. Join in on whatever they do, or sit in a table and relax, watching locals go by.

    Whatever you do, just don’t act like the woman in the first example, all hassled and rude.

    Reply
  31. Amanda

    Alexis, I agree fully. Whenever you have the chance to stay with some locals, you’ll get a much better insight into a new destination. It doesn’t always have to be friends or family – I’ve been to Russia a couple of times and found some homestay placements, and some of the women I stayed with told me all kinds of secrets about the cities there, and about life under communism, too. Very interesting.

    Reply
  32. cHaki

    Excuse me, in my opinion, i think this article really has a point. I’m only 14 years old and i have been to many places already with my family. I want to be a traveler someday when i grow up. And this article about comparing a traveler from a tourist really helped me in what i have to face in the future. Thank you for the tips. And please send me some other tips on how to be a great traveler. Thanks!

    Reply
  33. Joe

    its so stupid. who cares if your a tourist or not. let people be what they want annoying knowledgable whatever. it does not matter.

    Reply
  34. Tourista Maximus

    I always jump at the chance to host travelers whenever I bump into them. One thing I’ve learned from them is when you are in a place different from your home, you will do well to note the differences, rather than to always be talking of how inferior your host country is compared to your home. For example, Europeans seem compelled to tell me how bad our American beer is. When I go to Europe, I don’t tell my hosts how terrible their beef is when compared to the beef in the US. If asked, I say it is different, and leave it at that.

    Reply
  35. Tourista Maximus

    If you wish to do a smooth transition from Tourist to Traveler, one way might be to rent a villa and spend some time. In Jamaica, we rented for a few weeks. Our cook was very helpful in steering us to places that were not on the tour books, but were very noteworthy. I’m sure most travelers scoff at spending time in an upscale home in a poor country, but I think even the most humble traveler is a high roller when compared to the Jamaican street people we met and enjoyed trading experiences with.

    Reply
  36. Remember the Alamo « 349 south

    [...] So, maybe the Alamo is an “Over-rated Tourist Attraction.”  But, “Tourist” is definitely the operative word.  I have visited the Alamo twice in my life, first when I was [...]

    Reply
  37. perspective

    “Real travellers know people are extraordinarily similar around the world”

    “There is rarely a reason to visit a fast food restaurant”

    And yet… often, the *locals* are in the fast food chain. Because locals can be addicted to disgusting fried foods, just the way us North Americans have become addicted to gross, saturated fats.

    Are we about to criticize all those locals for choosing McDonald’s, as if we have the right to tell them what is authentic and what is not?

    The truth is, a local experience is an experience in the country you are in. If you are in the McDonalds in Abu Dabi, that IS a local experience, if indeed that is what you wish to do. It might not have anything to do with “needing to feel like you are in your home city”, and just be another local experience of the globalized variety. Maybe you want to save the ketchup packages written with Arabic script. Who knows?

    Sometimes, travellers get too caught up in this unspoken competition to have the most “authentic” local experience, as if globalization NEVER happened. Well, for better or worse, it’s here. And surprise surprise, it’s the LOCAL people of whatever country you are in who are involved too.

    I’m not saying go to Turkey and head to Pizza Hut for THE ONLY Turkish experience. It’s just that… maybe you want to see what Pizza Hut is like in Turkey. Why does that make you a bad traveller? Or an ignorant traveller?

    The “real” Turkey includes shwarma AND McDonalds: they are both eaten by locals, are they not? (At least those who eat beef!) Try both! Or don’t! But stop judging!

    I think many North American travellers (I’m Canadian) are insecure about being in certain countries and want to appear as “local” as possible to seem somehow more cultured or more globally aware.

    Don’t be insecure! So what if you are ordering a hamburger? Don’t be afraid that people will judge you- those who do are just afraid of being judged right back.

    If you strike up a conversation with that local girl sitting next to you who is ALSO enjoying a hamburger, you might be onto a great local experience others missed!

    Food for thought. :)

    Reply
  38. Hoogaar

    Awesome post “perspective”.

    I’m so sick of this uppity holier than thou “traveller” crap. I am an avid traveller. Been around the world, to Europe 4 times, going again this summer…and yeah, I love going into McDonald’s in France. IMO, that is more “local” than the other “authentic” restaurants you’ll see. I can almost guarantee you’ll find more locals in a McD than the “authentic” local restaurants. And I think it’s cool to have pancakes served with Nutella and being able to buy a beer and McDonald’s.

    These people will avoid the Eiffel Tower while in Paris and look down their nose at anyone so common as to go see it…whatever – get off your high horses

    Reply
  39. Clear Blue Dei | A Ramble about my last Thailand Trip and a Rant on Travelers

    [...] Here is what travelers “think” they are. Nice sentiments and well worth following (as I try to). But in reality, no one is more pretentious (and less interested in the culture of a country) than people who call themselves “travelers” (follow the link for a good explanation and see the bottom for traveler traits).  They refuse to be called tourists and denigrate all those people who in their minds, are. But basically they are a bunch of either rave kids who follow the parties or middle class kids who just don’t want to work or who want to feel “hip”, who travel around the circuit with each other and mooch off the indigenous population.  They stay in western run backpacker hostels with a bunch of other western kids and the only interaction they have with any local people is with whoever works there (whom they ignore, except to get something).  And lets not forget the total disregard for anyone and anything. It doesn’t even cross their mind to think about what they are doing to the people or property around them. It is the absolute opposite of leaving a small footprint where you travel. [...]

    Reply
  40. Frank C

    Carp, carp, carp … I’ve traveled all my life and never thought about it … and I’ve stayed away from Tourist … sites as much as possible … the author give words to my thoughts and that was a good thing.

    Reply
  41. Manoj Radhakrishnan

    I dont think the wandering-world can be divided to “travellers”, “tourists”. Everyone of us reading/agreeing/disagreeing with this write-up has done at least one thing sterotypically “touristy” and stereotypically “travellery” (probably once in every one of our trips).

    Having said that, having an “us” vs “them” attitude really helps to have a lively after-dinner conversation.

    BTW, here is a stereotype that I am breaking now… India is not the hardest country to travel around. I find it the easiest. The hardest thing one can do is to walk nonchalantly into a Starbucks in NY and order a grande non-fat frappuccino with extra foam. I am always scared that I will mess this up and the whole world will laugh at me :)… I am always surprised how the locals can do it without breaking a sweat!

    If you haven’t guessed already, I am a travelling tourist from India :)

    Reply
  42. Patty

    So many people are saying things like “but at least the McDonalds didn’t make me sick”, but they’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter if you get sick, or if you get bedbugs, or if it’s a little uncomfortable. Stepping outside your comfort zone is ALWAYS uncomfortable, but it’s about having the experience. I almost hope I DO get sick, and get bedbug bites because then I’ll know I’m out there on the front-lines living it and getting the most authentic experience I can.

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  43. Terran

    Can we just say a traveler is a very experienced tourist? That the difference between a traveler and a tourist is that one has more experience with different situations and can handle themselves better while visiting different places…

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  44. Rob

    Call yourself a traveler if it makes you feel better, but please don’t use it as an excuse to be cheap-arsed as that is just boring!

    Reply
  45. JEremy

    While I agree with points 2-4, once in a while it’s interesting to keep a studied ignorance, at least until you get there. It’s nice to arrive without knowing anything beyond how to get to you hotel/hostel/couchsurf/whatever.

    We did this when we went on a month-long excavation to Jordan. We decided that since we’d have to be with a group of people, we’d rather not build any expectations which would lead to disappointments.

    We read a good bit about general cultures, what and what not to do with locals (esp. since it was our first time in a muslim country), and what vaccinations to take, but that was it.

    The experience was great. We couldn’t just do our own thing, but the lack of meant that we were never really frustrated (except for when we were stuck in traffic).

    I think the line between tourist and traveller is a hazy one. I see a traveller more as taking travel as their lifestyle rather than a holiday from their job. I feel like a traveller not because I’m not a tourist, but because I’ve been living abroad in different and will continue to do so until I die (I hope). While travelling, I will also take touristy holidays to relax from my constant travelling, perhaps even to my own country.

    It’s funny how you can both be a traveller AND a tourist.

    Reply
  46. Ana Viajera

    As a travel writer I always seek to discover the heart of a place. I think that’s what sets the traveler apart from the tourist.

    Reply
  47. Todd

    the biggest thing I feel that separates a “tourist” from a “traveler” is, respect. As the beginning anecdote explains, the women in the book shop was loud and in a hurry, not very respectful, “oh hurry up I need to leave, give me something quick quick!”. It’s also hard to be a traveler and not a tourist when you’re on a “tour” like she was.
    Tip #2 is spot on. I spent a week in Barcelona a few years ago and loved it. But there were a ton of things I didn’t get to experience while I was there, and that is the biggest reason I want to go back.
    Finally, while the “tourist” sights are something everyone needs to see, that’s where it should end. See it and move on. As enthralling as Old Town Square in Prague is, I would never, ever eat at a restaurant near there. One place was charging almost 100Kc for a coca-cola, that’s $5. No thank you. Wandering a several blocks down a side street yielded an excellent restaurant with truly authentic 3 course meal for around $10. Much better.
    Whenever in a foreign place, do as the locals do.

    Reply
  48. sharon

    My best times are in a little village in Cahuita, Costa Rica – I am able to camp on someone’s property (10 times) and get water access. It is close to the rainforest, has jungle right near by (500 metres!!!) and then the beach. I help out with the kids health program, local ESL and teaching computer literacy. Best thing is the “one love” with indigenous, blacks (who were former Jamaican slaves, and the respectful Europeans and French-Canadians who have adapted to this way of life….and keep it in its natural state. Been able to start to do in Panama, Dominican Republic with the Haitians and hope to do in Kenya – counting the local elephant populations and living in tents (or shacks on stilts). LOVE IT.

    Reply
  49. Anji

    I couldn’t agree more! There is nothing like travelling like a local! When I went to India I was amazed with the beautiful culture but what I noticed is that I was trated as a tourist which changed the whole experience of living in India. So I decided to dress like them and wear a bindi and eat with my hands….all to resemble them as much as possible! And once you live like one of them and try to behave like them the taste of the place is so much more authentic!
    They key in living like a local is talking to people and getting to know them and their lifestyle. That is why concepts such as home swapping are becoming more and more trendy!
    Nice article Amanda! :)

    Reply
  50. DJ Wan

    This debate happened for a reason and it shouldn’t be dismissed. Sure, its not a bad thing to be a tourist in certain ways, but the crux of the issue where the stereotype stemmed from were the bad habits of the ignorant tourists. Sometimes, you want to climb up the Eiffel Tower not because its what everyone who comes to Paris do, but because it is simply something you grew up seeing in movies, books, pictures and posters and you want to finally be there yourself. But at the same time, you also want to try out the things off the beaten track, experience what it is like to be French in a day, perhaps? People doesn’t necessarily have to fall into either or category but could choose the best of each and practice what you feel is the best way for ou to enjoy your travels! But for crying out loud, if you show up in floral print shirt, cargo shorts, straw hats, fanny pack and a camera dangling off your neck, shouting obnoxiously for something in a souvenir shop in pur thick local dialect with no regards to everyone around you, I wouldn’t for a second hesitate to label you TOURIST with a big red stamp.

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  51. mp

    Sigh, why cannot one travel beyond the dull and mundane without being converted into the number 1 most tacky stereotype in the world.

    Reply
  52. Yeison

    Excellent post !

    When I was a tour guide I met so many anoying tourist, always in a rush, complaining for everything. I used to call them bubble tourist they live in a bubble and want everything just like the way the want

    Reply
  53. Chris

    Very useful information. Always want to avoid tourist destinations and be a traveler to see the real things in a foreign country. We should traveling like a local not a tourist!

    Reply
  54. Andreas Moser

    That’s why I have stopped travelling quickly and have started to move to a different place every 6 months. This gives me a base, making the travelling cheaper, and it gives me time to really discover an area, a country and a culture as well as learn a bit of the language.

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