A Traveler Vs. A Tourist


It's a time old discussion of what a traveler is vs. a tourist. It may be as old as the chicken and the egg scenario. Everyone has spoken or written on it, except for me.

I was at a travel blogging conference earlier this year where I was encouraged to leave this discussion alone because it's been there and done that in the travel writing world. However, I still see it being thrown around on social media all the time telling you which one is better and which you should be - so the discussion is far from over.

The discussion usually begins with the idea that a traveler is the better, more hip, savvy way to travel compared to your typical tourist. Travelers will often go solo cause they are fearless, brave, and amazing. Travelers take their time in each city. They get to know the culture and experience the food. Travelers never take photos with a selfie stick and never need to prove they were anywhere, but instead are trying to capture the essence of the moment they are in. They are more courteous to the locals of wherever they are. Travelers are really trying to see the world and get to know it - make sweet love to it.

Tourists on the other hand only want to collect stamps in their passports. They use selfie sticks and need their face in every picture in front of every site they see - often blocking other people's views. They are uncourteous to the native people and can often be rude and insensitive to their language. They will travel with guides and on tours. Tourists only stick to the main cities where they can see all the main attractions of the world. Tourists only want to show they've been somewhere without ever actually being there.

To be honest, I've been both.

The very first time I traveled to Europe I went solo, but I've also traveled with friends and family. I took my selfie stick with me, and it became my only friend sometimes - much like Wilson in Cast Away. On my first trip abroad I went to 8 countries in 2 months time, so I collected many stamps and sometimes only spent 3 days in a city. Sometimes I spent an entire week in a city, it all depended on who I met and the time I was having - the vibe I was feeling. I went to mostly major cities with the exception of visiting a small town in The Netherlands where I was born. I used my selfie stick to take pictures in front of the Colosseum, the Giant's Causeway, and the Eiffel Tower. I don't know if I blocked anyone's view, but all of those things are so huge I can't imagine I was in the way of the next guy. I ended up wandering down winding roads into unknown neighborhoods with complete strangers where I experienced what a local truly does. I've also drunkenly stumbled into a fast food joints that consisted of only french fries.

In conclusion, Travelers and Tourists are one in the same. One is not better than the other, or even very different. Sure, there are annoying tourists who are inconsiderate of the culture and get in everyone's way. I'd also like to argue that there are equally as many annoying traveler's who think they're better than everyone because of the way they are traveling vs. how you are. If you feel more comfortable going with a guided tour than that's your prerogative, and rightfully so. If you want to go off the path great! But the Eiffel Tower, and attractions like it are touristy for a reason, and anyone who shames you for wanting to see those first, or last, can go their own way and get right out of yours. It's about seeing the world! It's about wanting to see the world and making it happen, so however you need to do it is exactly how it should be done.

Sam Hancock