Why Travelers Should Aspire to Be More Like Tourists

Search the web long enough and you’ll find various tourist vs. traveler debates and tips to avoid looking like a tourist!

The word tourist has come to designate the wrong type of traveler: the rude person who’s oblivious to her surroundings and expects everyone to speak English.

Iphone compass + map = still lost  - photo by pinguino
Iphone compass + map = still lost    credit


I’m sure you’ve seen that tourist.  It may be you (don’t worry, you can always improve bad travel habits).  Many times, those labeled tourists are newbie travelers who are still learning the ropes.  It’s unfortunate that the focus is only on the negative traits.

Many seasoned travelers could take a lesson from tourists because they get quite a few things right.  Tourists:

Realize They Don’t Know Everything

Some travelers prepare so much for their trip that they know the best places to visit, know how to get around without help and know enough of the language to order their favorite types of foods.

Preparing is great.  But, don’t learn so much that you miss out on opportunities to learn from locals. Go ahead and get lost in a new place.  Eat something that smells great without asking what it is.

That’s what I call ‘walking on the wild side’.

Aren’t Afraid To Ask Questions

Travelers are reading guidebooks and downloading apps that provide them with everything they need to know about a location.  Travelers are immersing in local culture so much that they forget to take a step back from the culture and view it as an outsider.

While travelers are attempting to blend in, tourists are appreciating the differences and pointing them out.  They are observing with a childlike wonder that allows them to take in as much as possible.

Don’t Feel As If Certain Forms Of Travel Are Off Limits

Am I the only one tired of travelers dictating which forms of travel are superior?  Get off your soapbox!

Travel is very personal, and one person’s preferred method isn’t better than another.  Travel is about exploration or relaxation.  Travel is about being a part of it all or getting away from it all.

New travelers haven’t been brainwashed with these opinions and their continuous excitement is refreshing.

Aren’t So Focused On Travel That They Forget To Have Fun

Tourists haven’t budgeted down to the last dime for three months traveling Asia.  They travel with the goal to spend every dime to their name.

Tourists are enjoying their vacation, even if it means over paying.  It’s OK to occasionally ignore the budget if the reward is an amazing experience.

Travel shouldn’t be about continuous movement without pause to enjoy it.  Don’t plan the fun out of your trip.

I’ve had my fair share of laughs when discussing the difference between tourists and travelers.  But, the truth is that we are all tourists.  Let’s wholeheartedly embrace the label!

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  • I love this post. As long as you are respectful of the place and people around you, who cares if you stand out as a tourist. Even if you try with all your might to fit in and not look like a tourist, you still essentially are one. 🙂

    In my travels, I try to see a mix of “tourist spots” and “local spots” as both have their merits.

    • That’s so true, Stacy! We’re all tourists as soon as we step foot on another country. Respect should be packed in every traveler’s luggage. A little bit goes a long way!

  • Ryan

    Nope, you are far from the only person who is sick of hearing and reading about what makes a “real traveler,” or some other such nonsense.

    It’s one thing to offer support for people, even constructive criticism – but it’s quite another thing to declare someone as traveling “the wrong way.” Isn’t the entire point to broaden your horizons and expand your world view? Seems to me like that’s mutually exclusive with cutting other people / travel styles down – especially for ultimately silly reasons like “oh, they’re only going to the TOURIST spots. They aren’t seeing the REAL [place].”

    I say that as someone who spends way more on transportation and hotel rooms than I theoretically “could have” spent, and I refuse to be ashamed about it.

    • I wholeheartedly agree!

      At one time I felt ashamed about sharing certain travel experiences because I thought others would turn up their nose. Thanks goodness I got over that.

      My hope is that others will continue to travel the way that they want to without letting the opinions of others affect them. Travel is all about the why ( as you said, broadening horizons and expanding world views), not the how and where!