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.

With vaccines arriving, let's hope we can be traveling again in 2021!

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

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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

The New Year is here...
And we're ready to put 2020 behind us.
What are your resolutions? To lose weight? To Exercise more?
We're hoping for an end to this virus and the travel restrictions so...
Why not a FUN resolution!
Resolve to TRAVEL!
It's a good time to plan your travels...

We have lists to help....
Custom Tour Planning List

Destination stories....
Europe Travel Tips
Africa Dream List
See America

Travel Planning
International Travel Planning Tips
Guidebooks can help you plan

Don't Forget Valentine's Day
Romantic Weekends

What About Your Passport?
Time to get one... or renew...

Answers about Passports and Visas

Dreaming of Warm Weather or Snow?

Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lake, Iceland

Packing for a Tropical Vacation
Cold Weather Packing List

…Or just make a resolution to explore more pages here and get ideas for travel destinations and how to get there.

NOW is the time to start planning for a great trip this year.


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Updated Tips & New Travel Stories

  1. 2020 Travels - What Travels?

    Our 2020 travels were slim. COVID kept us home too. One trip to the Three Guyanas, but dreaming of travel next year.

    Read More

  2. 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.

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  3. 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

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