What's all the fuss about traveler versus tourist?
Travel writer Paul Theroux said...
"Tourists don't know where they've been...
...travelers 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.