Traveler Versus Tourist

Forget Arguments - Go Enjoy It Your Way

We love to travel, and 2020 was supposed to be a big travel year for us. Like the rest of you, that hasn't happened. 

We're still dreaming about travel, reading about new destinations, and making (tentative) plans for the future. We hope all of you are well and staying safe... and that you find some inspiration here for YOUR future travels.

What's all the fuss about traveler versus tourist? 

Travel writer Paul Theroux said...

"Tourists don't know where they've been... don't know where they're going."

We think that's a little bit of travel snobbery....

That's like saying, "Travel my way or you're doing it all wrong."

Other people say travelers are active, tourists are passive.

We say travel the way you're comfortable... as long as you respect the country and people you're visiting.

Nothing Wrong With Being A Tourist!

Chinese costumes on Yangtze River Cruise

We've never felt there was anything wrong with calling yourself a tourist...

...with going to the most popular destinations...

Everyone wants to see them for a good reason.

There's nothing wrong with joining in some silliness now and then.

How good you are at traveling and how much you enjoy it depends on your attitude and your actions.

Be Polite, Not Demanding

You DO want to be a sensitive traveler no matter what you call yourself.

So instead of getting into the traveler versus tourist debate, let's just say that you need to be considerate.

Almost everyone who has done some traveling has stories about insensitive people... and it doesn't really matter whether they think of themselves as travelers or tourists.

Learn A Few Words Of The Language

A sensitive traveler learns a few words of the local language.

You don't have to take this much beyond hello, good-bye and thank you, although the more you try the better.

If you're a native English speaker, you're a lucky traveler because you'll probably find someone who can speak English almost anywhere...

...but don't assume everyone speaks English.

It's only polite to greet and thank people in their native language.

When we were in Madagascar, the Malagasy people lit up with friendliness when we greeted them with "Salama" rather than hello in English or even Bonjour in French.

Try To Understand Basic Words

Try to understand at least the most basic words.

In France one time, a waiter approached a tourist at the breakfast table next to us and said, "Bonjour Monsieur, Cafe?"

You can see that translates to, "Good morning sir, coffee?" Right?

BUT... This tourist said, "I don't speak French."

WOW.... that's not trying very hard.

Respect Local Customs and Dress Codes

I dressed conservatively at a Pakistani Wedding

A sensitive traveler respects the customs of the country they're visiting.

If it's a very conservative country, dress conservatively.

You don't need to wear head scarves and cover up most of the time, but you really shouldn't wear shorts and tops that reveal a lot of skin either.

And if you need to cover up more to see a church or a mosque... respect that.

Just do what they ask of you. You're there to see the differences in our cultures. 

Greet People, Reach Out

Greet shopkeepers when you enter their stores. It's only polite, and they expect it in most places in the world. 

Often it's polite to greet people at breakfast in your hotel or B&B. 

Traveler Versus Tourist - You May Be Both

Think about the traveler versus tourist debate...

Take a look at some of the definitions...

You'll find that sometimes you're sightseeing and playing tourist...

And other times you'll join in a local activity and be what those travel snobs define as a traveler...

But you're learning about the place you're visiting either way.

Some people will say that you're not a traveler if you stay in hotels and take tours.

Well, some hotels and tours will isolate you a bit, but if you make an effort to connect with the locals, you will still be a traveler no matter what "they" say.

So traveler versus tourist?

We think it's a made up debate.

Travel opens your eyes no matter whether you backpack on your own, get lost and wander, or join a group.

Traveler or tourist... it's all good.

Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark

Curious about what else we've written about?  Search our site for a destination or travel tip.

But... We'd love to have you share this page or comment on it…
Thanks, Judy and Mark

International Travel Tips l Europe Travel Tips
Hotel and B&B Tips l Packing Lists
Go from Traveler Versus Tourist to MouseToursTravels Home Page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Did it help with your travel planning and preparation? Eager to leave on that next vacation? Please leave your tips or comments in the box below.

Timely Tips

Covid-19 Continues

2020 presents a travel year like no other.  Mostly we have been sheltering in place.

Domestic driving trips, visits to state or national parks are all most of us can accomplish... but we'll give our fall tips so you can be dreaming of future vacations!

Shoulder Season
We love travel during shoulder seasons.
September, October, November...

They're all great for travel somewhere!
Sunny Fall days with colorful leaves in the north.
Spring is greening things up in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fall foliage in shoulder season

The weather can be changeable, so be sure to pack layers and some rain gear...

See all of our Packing Lists and Tips.

We have had a summer of home maintenance and sheltering in place... we're so dreaming of future travel!

Need Travel Ideas?
Things to See in Europe
Africa Calls!
Travel In America

Don't just dream about it...
Start making plans!

Custom Tour Planning List
International Travel Planning Tips
Foreign Is Fun - Not Scary!
Get Your Passports and Visas


Search MouseToursTravels
Travel questions or destination info?
Find our answers faster..


We want you to feel comfortable out in the world and on our pages - so surf away in your own language...

Updated Tips & New Travel Stories

  1. Discovering The Three Guyanas

    Love discovering less touristed regions? The three Guyanas are tucked up in the north east corner of South America that doesn’t get much attention.

    Read More

  2. 2019 Travels - Africa, Asia, Europe and USA

    On our 2019 travels, it was independent travel, a custom tour and a group tour. All work beautifully... just depends on where you’re going and what you want.

    Read More

  3. Vietnam and Cambodia - Life Along The Mekong River

    The Mekong River… Vietnam and Cambodia as we barged along this mighty river that traverses much of Southeast Asia.

    Read More

Two Ways To Like Us!

Like Our Site Top Left
Like Our Fanpage Below
Thank You!

Navigate Our Site

Related Pages
Trip Planning

Guide Books
Why Travel With A Guidebook

How to Choose A Travel Guidebook

Travel Agents
A Travel Agent - Do You Need One?

Choosing Destinations
Best Time To Go

What Kind Of Trip Do You Want
More Than Throwing Darts

Some of Our Ideas
Stories About Europe
Why Not Africa?
North America
International Travel Tips

What Kind of Vacation?
Group Tour

Independent Travel
Driving Vacations
Adventure Travel
Active Travel - OK, How Active?
Multigenerational Vacations

Eco-Travel and Volunteering
Green Travel Tips
Sustainable Tourism
Volunteer Vacations - Are They For You?

Plan For Safety
Travel Advisories - Plan A Safe Trip

Don't Let Travel Worries Get To You
Keep Traveling

Planning Itineraries
A Custom Tour?
Custom Tour Planning List
Custom Tour Ideas
Top Ten Lists - Helpful, But…
Balance Your Itinerary - Mix It Up
Avoid Museum Sensory Overload
Hobbies for Trip Ideas
Where To Get Trip Ideas

Get Passports and Visas

Travel Documents
Vaccinations and Meds 
Travel Preparation

Checklists So You Don't Forget
Travel Document Checklist

Travel Preparation Checklist
Home Departure Checklist
Pre-Departure Checklist

Ready For A New Adventure?

We escape by traveling…
But there are more ways to escape. 
Work on something you LOVE…
With A Website
SBI Teaches You Everything

First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life