Top 10 Differences Between a Tourist and a Traveler
Anyone who has traveled extensively can typically spot a tourist as quickly as a local can – which may or may not be a good thing! Let’s jump in to the Top 10 Differences Between a Tourist and a Traveler, so that we can start to create a meaningful distinction between the two. Here goes…
- A tourist is most comfortable meeting and talking to people from his own country. A traveler is innately more interested in meeting and getting to know people from the country they are in.
- A tourist comes in with more “expectations” of how their trip “should” go (i.e. “I’m at a 5-star hotel, there should be air-conditioning here!” “Why did I pay more for my tour than he did?”). These expectations, when not met, can create severe disappointment. A traveler, on the other hand, is coming in with as few expectations as she can, and as a result, this gives her more flexibility and adaptability to handle whatever situation she may encounter.
3. A tourist will typically pay more for an experience. A traveler can generally find the same experience for much less money, simply by talking to other travelers and tour operators, knowing which blogs and travel sites to scour, and by keeping their timing and itineraries more flexible.
4. A tourist typically plans everything in advance, down to the last detail. After all, they want to make the most of their vacation time, don’t they? A traveler, on the other hand, is usually going to have a much looser itinerary, often budgeting extra days on the front or back-end of a trip – the idea being that many of the best moments happen during the “in-between” times. Also, sometimes an itinerary will devote too much time to an area that may not be right for you – or conversely, not enough time to a particular spot that you find magical. Having more freedom with your itinerary gives you the freedom to say “yes” to what you like, and “no” to what you don’t.
5. A tourist is more likely to take guided tours everywhere (this is particularly true on cruises, where the course is literally plotted out, in advance, for you). This works very well for some people. A traveler, on the other hand, is more likely to do a little of both: guided tours for some of the major sites, but more independent traveling in between.
6. A tourist is more comfortable staying in as-close-to-Western-style accommodations as she can. A traveler is typically looking for more off-the-beaten path experiences, which don’t always allow for the most luxurious accommodations. Typically, a healthy mix of both is possible in many countries.
7. A tourist typically has only 2-4 weeks off per year. Thus, on their vacation, R&R is typically the name of the game: as in, they want to lay on a beach in Hawaii for 2 weeks and do nothing but drink daiquiris – and there’s nothing wrong with that! Or, conversely there is another type of tourist who tries to cram as much as humanly possible into their 2-week vacation, arriving home more exhausted than when they left. A traveler typically has crafted a schedule that is more flexible(i.e. they have crafted a schedule that allows them more than 2 weeks off per year). Thus, their approach to travel is not quite so all or nothing: they realize that there are days for trekking and adventuring, but that there are also days for relaxing on a beach and sinking into a good book.
8. A tourist typically wants to post EVERY exciting thing they do (including eating) on social media – which means they are never too far from their phone. A traveler typically posts their highlights as opposed to every little detail, and can sometimes go for days without being near their phone – whether they are on a trek and outside of cell service, or they simply recognize that being “in the moment” is hampered by constant connectivity, so they often opt to go without it and as a result, are able to come more deeply into the moment.
9. A tourist posts pictures to social media with the unwritten but express intent of: “LOOK AT ME!! LOOK WHERE I AM!” The traveler’s intent in posting pictures is not so much for personal aggrandizement, but instead to alert people to astonishing places throughout the world that they may never have heard of, i.e. they are wanting to bring awareness of great places and great people to a wider audience.
10. And finally, something I have seen from much personal observation: a tourist typically brings very much of themselves when they travel –their habits, their expectations, attitudes and routines. This can create a barrier to fully understanding another culture, and it can also create a barrier to personal transformation. Because travel does, perhaps more than any other single medium, have the power to transform us. A traveler, meanwhile, through their natural aptitude towards flexibility and adaptability, will tend to quiet their natural personality their first few days in a new place – observing more, and letting this new place sink into their consciousness. After that point, it is possible for a slightly different person to emerge than first entered that place: one who is a little wiser, and whose original mind has expanded – even just a bit – beyond its original proportions. It is this expansion of mind that the traveler truly seeks, and is what, at the end of the day, can turn someone who was once a tourist into a full-fledged traveler.