Traveler vs Tourist

July 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

There’s a difference between traveling and being a tourist.

Scenario: You take a cruise to Turkey with your family. While there, you walk around the capitol city buying expensive trinkets to show your friends at home that you are a world traveler. You hurry back to the boat after shopping to get away from those weird people who dress funny and back to the pre-paid dinner on the boat and relax by the pool.

Pop quiz. This describes:

a. A tourist
b. A traveler

(Answer at end)

The tourist takes a week off work after carefully studying where the Internet says to go and getting advice from their other tourist work friends.

They make a packing list from tips they learned on a Rick Steve’s TV series then they go to REI and other highly recommended travel stores to get:
- 1 pair of pants that unzip at the knee for convenient shorts (2 in 1!)
- A breathable button down that is conveniently also sun resistant (move over sweaty pits, yes!)
- 3 pair socks
- 10 pair of underwear (a few extra)
- 1 shower towel (these are too ‘cute’ and your friend’s sister’s cousin took one on a trip and said they save SO much room, and you are packing light!)
Disclaimer: I DO have one of these.

They travel in groups, packs, or pairs. They eat the foods they know, use guidebooks, and impose their own language and cultures.

As I’m writing this 2 German tourists are sitting next to me on the subway with… wait for it…  giant cameras around their necks (you thought I was gonna say fanny packs). After just having been at Battery Park, feeling like I was at a camera store slash outdoor photo shoot – I should have listed cameras first on the packing list. Then fanny packs.

The tourist plans a trip around his/her work schedule. The traveler plans life around his/her travels.

Travelers often travel alone, avoiding groups and packs. They seek out the local foods.

Instead of asking questions, tourists make assumptions based on what they already know – versus what they could learn.

Travelers see through the trinkets. They collect little bits of conversations with locals, new foods, foreign vocabulary and customs, and non-audio-headset tours of local history – as souvenirs.

For example: collect a non-engraved with-price-tag (translated: real) pebble from the beach at Plymouth Rock in England versus a skewed picture of you in the I heart NY tee (oh you know the one) pretending to squash the statue of liberty with your ‘huuuge’ finger. Or better yet posing in front of the GW (thats g-dub yo) statue with yo’ best gangsta poze so all your homeys on Facebook can give u props.  Word.

The traveler learns about themselves, history, culture, and embraces differences.

The traveler has washed their underwear in the sink and has dried off using their t-shirt.

(Answer to question above: if you don’t know, you are a tourist)