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  • Writer's pictureJody Smith

Be a traveler not a tourist/don’t be a tourist be a traveler

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

How many times have you heard that or some variation? This isn’t about who has the moral superiority in travel but rather a perspective of each. Although, at times I have to say those who tend to enunciate their “I’m a traveler not a tourist” mantra tend to also be those who say “oh no I did not see the movie, I read the book”. However, did you ever notice how often the completed commentary is followed by “the book was much better!”? Exactly, “oh thought you didn’t see the movie, just read the book?”. Now for clarification on this topic, this is the exception not the norm.

There are primarily, two types of people who travel, tourists and travelers. With the caveat, that in my opinion and some common sense in mind, every traveler has to also be a bit of a tourist at heart.

1. Tourists arrive in large groups with porters taking their luggage to their accommodations. They also are experts with time management skills squeezing in time to catch every sight. Travelers typically arrive along or with another person schlepping their own single compact suitcase.

2. Tourists are easy to spot and are indifferent to being called a tourist. The traveler will blend in and take exception to the tourist reference.

3. Tourists want to see everything in the guidebook. Travelers want to hit the high points, but see the sights not in the guidebook.

4. Tourists will try foreign foods preferably a sample from someone else’s plate and hold back that cringe, remarking with “oh now that’s interesting”. The traveler will try everything to excess and discover days spent hovering near a toilet.

5. Tourists take photos of every angle of the famous sights with selfies included. The camera is always ready to catch that unique moment in time that suddenly presents itself. Travelers shoot pictures of famous sights too but not ones that look like the postcards. They seek out ordinary people (locals) doing ordinary things and capture that on film. Unfortunately, not wanting to look like a tourist they hide their camera and miss the impromptu shot.

6. Tourists step off the plane and hit up a burger at Micky D’s , without blinking. A traveler will similarly but never admit to it.

7. Tourists block the flow of foot traffic to snap a photo. Travelers find themselves in that same spot but at zero dark thirty and or sunrise/sunset to capture the solitude.

8. Tourist will learn a few words and rely heavily on their smart phone to translate. Traveler will too, but act like they know more.

9. Tourist goes to kiosks along the streets and pay full price. Travelers will haggle and still pay the same.

10. Tourists drink to excess. Travelers do the same but spend money at the local mom & pop establishments.

This all comes down to two things. Tourists vacation, travelers travel. So, when all else fails, try to be a traveler. It truly is rewarding.


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