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Tourist or Traveler?

by Clara Burr-Lonnon

Photography by Clara Burr-Lonnon

You’ve arrived in a vibrant new place thousands of miles away from home with an enormous amount of things on your to-do list.

But. You’re already wondering how you are going to explore your destination.

Well, it all comes down to whether you want to experience your newfound destination as a tourist or as a traveler. This may not be something you ever thought of distinguishing between before, but each of these terms has its distinct implications. Let’s differentiate between the two.

Tourists can be identified by rushing around carrying a map, guidebook and camera in search of all of the must-see locations. They stick out and typically separate themselves from the local people and culture. Tourists often seem oblivious to their surroundings, have little regard for the local cultural norms and constantly compare wherever they are to their homes. Tourists seek to find the perfect souvenirs and normally find their purchases at overpriced souvenir shops.

Travelers, however, take their time to immerse themselves into their surroundings and live like the locals. Aspirations for their journey may include learning about the new surroundings and exploring places visited only by locals, such as a small café off the beaten path. They have no fear of a language barrier and instead embrace it. They want to explore enough to know the places they like and have the opportunity to return to a favorite spot during a trip.

Travelers may make friends with locals and blend in with the local culture because they are respectful and are aware of cultural norms, instead of isolating themselves from local culture like tourists. A traveler explores with an open mind and embraces the different culture and quirks of a new city. He or she hopes to gain experiences that will last a lifetime. If a traveler decides to purchase a keepsake during their travels, any purchase will be an authentic item that will remind them of their journey.

Although being a tourist and a traveler are two distinct things, it is not necessary to commit to one particular label for the rest of your adventures. Instead, you may want to be a tourist on your trip to Rome, but on your trip to London, you may want to embody the ideals of a traveler.

Remember, even if you do decide to be a traveler, it doesn’t mean you should miss out on “must-sees” just because they’re packed with tourists. You may just want to go early in the morning or late in the evening to dodge the crowds.

If you decide whether you will be a tourist or a traveler on your next trip, you will get the most out of your adventure and gain the experience you hoped for.

Don’t forget, it doesn’t matter whether you are a tourist or a traveler; neither is right or wrong. It all depends on your dreams and goals for your adventure. Each explorer’s experiences will be unique; you’ll explore different sights and hear different sounds, but you will gain the most out of your travels if you decide on whether you are going to experience your destination with a tourist or traveler mindset.

Before you embark on your next adventure, consider the following when deciding whether or not to embrace being a traveler or a tourist:

  • How many days are you staying in your destination for?

  • Are you just traveling to one place, or are you visiting several?

  • Are you traveling alone or with a group?

  • Did you plan and book any activities before you reached your destination which give you time constraints?

  • Do you want to plan out your days to make sure that you’ll have time to hit all of the things you want to do, or would you rather let your plans organically evolve as you experience wherever you are?

  • Do you want to go back to your favorite places you visited on your travels, or do you want to hit each place just once?

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