Nowadays people are traveling more than ever before. Technological developments and high-speed internet help us plan ahead a vacation and stay flexible during it. Booking your own flight and hotel online, ordering a taxi or renting a car through apps, keeping in touch with your friends and family from any place, let us focus on creating memories while on a trip. Internet has also enabled us to research vacation places and has given us more information about them than ever before. All these destinations have always existed, but today’s hyperconnected world has brought each of them a little bit closer to home. No matter what kind of experience or what type of travel you are looking for, there’s something available for everyone out there.
With the travel bloggers and regular people posting their vacation experiences and photos on social network platforms, a “Tourist vs. Traveler” argument crops up over and over again among travelers.
In this topic, a word “tourist” has somehow developed a negative meaning. For many travelers, tourists are associated with someone who carries a selfie stick or a camera hanging around their neck, with white socks pulled way up to their knees, someone who is always interested in the obvious attractions, takes guided tours and expects everyone to speak good English. So in this stereotypical sense, tourists are presented as people who stay in their comfort zone, miss out on adventures, seeing only the popular sights, without making an effort to meet locals, except those who they are travelling with.
Traveler, on the other hand, is described as someone who stays away from the typical tourist hotspots, usually going in the opposite direction, searches for places only locals know, learns the culture and fits in with it, meets new people, learns their language, discovers unique stories that you cannot google or find inside guidebooks. In other words, traveler is described as someone who steps out of his comfort zone and is not afraid of having an adventure, like getting lost in the unknown places.
To some people this distinction is important. There might be some truth behind these stereotypes, but also they are disconnected from reality. Either way, arguing on who is who or who is better is pretty ridiculous.
Who is Who?
Funny part of this “Tourist vs. Traveler” debate is that tourist doesn’t necessarily take tours. He might be traveling independently and yet following the tourist route. People, who take tours, are traveling as well. So to be a tourist you have to be a traveler, being a traveler means you are a tourist – a new person venturing into unknown. Both are defined as “a person who travels”.
Mix of Tourist and a Traveler
Yes, people love to label and define things… Call yourself whatever you want. In the end, it is all about your attitude!
Everyone has his own travel styles, his own perspectives and preferences. Travel means different things to different people. Respect it. There is no “right way” and there’s no “wrong way” either. There’s only the way that works best for you.
You can taste local dishes, but can have lunch in popular food chains that you are familiar with. You can stay at luxurious hotels, but also at hostels with 5 or more people. You can save money and travel by trains, buses or just walk, but also you can spend money and take a taxi every day.
You might have certain information about the country you visit, from your friends, TV, history or travel books, but apart from that when you arrive, everything is foreign and exciting for you. That’s what unites both tourist and a traveler. Flow with the excitement to unknown.
Embrace the Embraceable
Tourist attractions are popular for a reason. Usually they are places tied to historic significance or natural wonders of the world. Avoiding, for example, the Coliseum in Rome, Niagara Falls in Canada, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Taj Mahal in India or the Great Wall of China, because other people are visiting them too, just for the sake of ‘being called a traveler’, means missing out something really extraordinary and is quite arrogant. While you visit major landmarks shoulder to shoulder with other people, you can also seek out hidden gems, places that are less crowded. Do whatever you want. Just don’t be disrespectful. No matter where you travel to, you should respect the country’s culture, language, religion, people’s traditions and customs. Even if you don’t understand them.
The true enjoyment of travel comes from realizing that the world still has something to teach you. Embrace it fully.
Make It Unique
Traveling has many benefits. It is a great opportunity to disconnect from daily routine, widen our perspective by getting to know new cultures. People who travel a lot start to embrace changes, easily overcome their problems and get many new ideas. While many people share the same travel experiences, you still can make it unique for yourself.
Start a travel journal
Keep your ideas, impressions in one place. Feel free to write whatever pops into your head. Smells, sights, sounds, taste, human interactions. You will see stuff you never noticed before.
Put the phone away
Be present in the moment when you travel. Observe it all with your own eyes. Snapchatting and Instagramming is good, but do it later.
Watch life happen in front of you
Sit in a park or in a street café and watch people. This way you will feel the pulse of the place you’re visiting.
Try local dishes
To taste the country’s culture, try local cuisine. Forget about popular food chains for a while.
Hire a local driver
Hiring a local driver has a huge benefit. You will gather a lot of new information about the culture and customs of the country while on the road.
Meet local people
Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. Even if that means to combine gestures and body language to communicate.
Try new things
Break out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself.
Remember, we are all sharing this beautiful world. What matters is that everybody is curious about it and it is a wonderful thing. Regardless of what you choose, be a tourist or a traveler, or both of them – just make sure your trip is memorable.