Is There A Difference Between a Tourist and a Traveller? Does it matter?
We all love to experience new places, but what’s the difference between a tourist and a traveller?
Tourists love to get away from it all and enjoy going to new locations, but what sets them aside from travellers is the fact that tourists generally like to visit places that have similar amenities to back home, keeping within a comfort zone and do not mind making themselves known as tourists and visitors of the country. A tourist ventures out in the world to temporarily escape the day to day by having a vacation.
Travellers on the other hand, pride themselves in blending in and immersing themselves in the local culture. Travellers in essence are searching for a more authentic experience, which is truer to the location and preferably not mentioned in any guidebooks. A traveller embarks on their “vacation” as a journey.
While neither is inherently bad or good, they are different characteristics that provide completely different experiences. However, nothing is so black and white, it is more probable that we have “split personalities” with different portions of tourists and travellers in us, dependent on our preferences and travel experiences i.e. “radius of our comfort zone”.
But regardless of whether you see yourself as a traveller or a tourist, there are ways that we can all be better visitors to the places we choose to spend our free time.
How To Be A Better Tourist
As tourists, we can all benefit from stretching our comfort zone, blending in a bit more. This will earn us some respect from locals, where we can get “inside information” on what the city really has to offer. At the same time, this makes us less susceptible to scams.
First and foremost, lose the selfie-stick and paper map, or at least, do not flaunt them. These are the classics that make one stand out in the crowd. And avoid wearing the “tourist uniform” i.e. standout for looking different e.g. white socks in sandals, fluorescent sneakers, inappropriately dressed for the locale/situation etc.
On the less physical end, blend in by being more aware of the surroundings and be more sensitive and respectful of the social norm.
Itinerary Comfort Zone
Do not be dictated by guidebooks. Leave some space in the itinerary for some improvisation. Get local advice on what sights you should see and choose something just within your comfort zone. Why not stretch that comfort zone by ditching tour buses or guided tours and travel by foot or local transport as the locals do?
Learn A Little Lingo
If you’re jetting off abroad, the ability to communicate with the locals doesn’t mean that you need to take an intensive 6-month course in Spanish. Learning how to say simple phrases such as please and thank you in the language used in the country you’re going to, is often much appreciated.
Shop And Eat Local
The tourist economy is the livelihood of many locals, so eat at local restaurants, shop at markets for handicrafts and leave those English tea bags at home – there are plenty of alternatives once you reach your destination that help keep the local economy going. Furthermore, local food is linked to local culture; tasting local cuisine is getting a taste of the country’s culture, which can be very enriching.
How To Be A Better Traveller
Travellers usually go to places to experience and not to “see stuff”. There are travellers and there are good travellers. Travellers will already be surrounding themselves with locals and immersing themselves in the culture to broaden their worldview. They will usually know the benefits of packing smart, and not lug plenty of luggage around on public transport, sticking out like a sore thumb. If not check out our LeanPac®System of modular travel bags for an easy to use solution to over packing.
A frequent traveller does not a good traveller make. Here are a few tips and traits to give you food for thought in evolving into a better traveller.
Going with the flow is good but embracing the situation is better e.g. curious over the wrong food order as it may be a new favourite is better than asking for the correct dish, or worried about getting lost when finding your way can be an adventure.
Don’t be an automatic expert. May it be a driver, a waiter or bar-keep, they have insight. Instead of definitely knowing what you want, ask where they think you should be going, what they think you should try eating or drinking, before making a decision.
Don’t be a stereotype “know it all” experienced traveller. Be a little self-depreciative as the ability to laugh at oneself and one’s country when travelling warms the local to you and opens many doors and opportunities. It also helps in overcoming any unpleasant situations.
Go further than learning phrases in the local language. Ability to read physical cues and acting on them appropriately, can be very helpful especially in a culturally diverse world e.g. in some countries, locals will say “Yes” to everything whether they agree or not just to be polite.
Your good time should not make someone else’s life more difficult and offence avoidance in the form of an apology e.g. sorry in all languages with a smile should be a “must learn”.
Lastly, do not turn your nose up at tourists, and don't avoid popular attractions simply because they're packed with them.
Some Similarities Between Tourists and Travellers
Although there are differences between tourists and travellers, there are more similarities than one would think. Here are a few: