What’s the Difference Between
 tourists and travelers

You need not even listen, just wait…the world will offer itself freely to you, unmasking itself.
Franz Kafka

If you’ve traveled much, I know you’ve seen them. I mean, we’ve all seen them. And I’ve never met a fellow traveler who doesn’t find them annoying.


Even the word ‘tourist’ gives me shivers.

“But it’s called the Travel and Tourism industry” I hear you say. “What’s the problem?”  Doesn’t everyone have ‘a right’ to travel, see the world, and expand their world view?

No. Not assholes tourists.

Let me explain: A tourist spot is a place of interest that the locals are already familiar with or have understood the history behind. They believe that the history (sometimes good, sometimes bad) should be preserved for future generations – either to keep its great natural beauty, as a lesson to future humans (be it a warning or a reminder), or of some historical interest.

Related: What Makes a Bad Traveler

Invariably, you will need to travel to get to the tourist spot.

Now, dear reader, I am going to tell you a little secret.

There are two types of people who visit tourist spots (and travel to get there) – there are TOURISTS and there are TRAVELERS.

“They’re the same!” I hear you say!

No, they are NOT. There is a big difference between tourists and travelers.

And here’s why…

A TOURIST…saves up their money, decides to go on holiday, listens to what their friends and family say and then book something exactly the same as their friends did so that they too can do exactly what everyone else has done.
A TRAVELLER…saves up their money, decides to go on holiday, and books to go to a place that THEY are interested in because they feel a connection or interest to that place. They are going for themselves, not to brag about going there.

A TOURIST… thinks they know the history and culture of the places they are going to.
A TRAVELLER…researches their destination’s history and culture and factors things like religious holidays, languages, lifestyle etc into their travel plans.

A TOURIST… wears inappropriate clothing and carries their most expensive jewelry to remote destinations. They also pack more bags they can manage and expect someone else to carry them for them.
A TRAVELLER... packs only what is necessary and potentially hand washes, if necessary.

A TOURIST… chooses their accommodation based purely on wi-fi capabilities.
A TRAVELLER… chooses accommodation based on the location.

A TOURIST… goes to places, takes selfies in ridiculous poses and moves on.
A TRAVELLER… goes to places, takes photos and reflects on the historical/cultural significance of the place they visit while being there.

A TOURIST… loudly vocalizes their opinion or disapproval about other cultures in front of people from that culture, and constantly reiterates how much ‘better’ their own nationality/religion/culture is.
A TRAVELLER... keeps their opinions to themselves and remains open to new ideas and cultures.

A TOURIST… expects the world to speak their language.
A TRAVELLER... takes the time to learn a few key phrases in the language of the country they are visiting and download Google Translate.

A TOURIST… expects every country in the world to accept their currency (because its better)
A TRAVELLER... exchanges their money into the currency of the country they are visiting and they also don’t carry around large denominations of the currency.

A TOURIST… eats at international fast-food chains like McDonalds and KFC (and then go on to complain that the menu is different)
A TRAVELLER… eats local food and tries local dishes.

A TOURIST… buys a few souvenirs and culturally misappropriates the clothing, hairstyles and items.
A TRAVELLER… buys a few souvenirs and treasures them.

A TOURIST… expects the location to change for them
A TRAVELLER… happily changes for the location

So what’s the real difference between a tourist and a traveler? Whether you are young or old, have a lot of money or just enough; choose to travel alone or in a tour group, backpack or take a cruise – it doesn’t matter. Being a tourist or traveler is all about your attitude.

Take your time, plan your holiday, find out about the culture and history of the country you are visiting – learn, grow and most importantly – experience it all! You may never get another chance.

Just please, do me one small favor.

Be a traveler – not a tourist.

About Lauren Meyer

Lauren enjoys travelling, photography, single malt whiskey, history, deep sarcasm and dark humour. Her idea of a perfect vacation is hiking through the Scottish Highlands – but staying overnight somewhere with a flush toilet and a shower. Never one to shy away from her opinion, Lauren will keep you entertained with stories of life, love and travel. You’ve been warned…

One response to “The Difference Between Tourists and Travelers

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