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“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they are going. – Paul Theroux” We all have often gotten into the debate about whether someone is a traveler or a tourist. The debate is endless and there’s no point arguing over it. However, over the last 10 years of our travels, we have observed some distinguishing factors between the two. Please note that this is based on what we have experienced and not an attempt to judge any type but simply highlighting the differences.
Tourists stick out, travelers blend in
Tourists go about taking pictures and one big sign is the scores of selfies they click. Every popular spot, every view-point, every monument is crowded with people to the last inch, with their selfy sticks jutting out of the crowd. Trying their best to get one good shot. They are the ones complaining about too many people around. Travelers on the other hand are not conspicuous. They blend in and act like the locals trying to absorb the local culture. Their focus is more on memories and experiences rather than selfies.
Travelers know where they are going and dress accordingly as well.
Tourists need comfort; travelers need adventure
At one point in time, I needed a proper hotel room with a bed, AC, TV, and housekeeping. I would fret at the slightest discomfort and make a scene if I wasn’t served food on time. But the more I traveled, I realize that these actually don’t contribute to my experience. Instead, they often become barriers in me having a great time. If I could only leave behind my inhibitions, my desires, my needs and travel free, I would have a memorable trip. And with time, I let go of these needs and today I can adapt to any room, any food, any place, any person and any situation. That helps me focus more on the things that matter and less on other stuff.
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Tourist checks in; traveler connects
A typical tourist wants to check into Facebook, foursquare wanting to show off their vacations. They like to cross of destinations from their list or build a list of exotic destinations they have been to. A Traveller, on the other hand, focusses on connecting with the place and the people for he/she will return someday.
They want to be in sync with the place, connect with it to indulge in the emotions that surround these destinations.
Tourists extract; travelers contribute
This is a big one. What we have noticed is that responsible travelers often appreciate the places they go to and respect the nature/beauty around them. You generally don’t see them throwing garbage, scribbling names on monuments or screaming their lungs out on a hilltop. Travelers seem to respect the tranquility of a place and respect others around them. I have come across people who pick garbage from jungles, hilltops because they feel for the nature around them. They are the ones who understand what ecotourism is and respect the unwritten laws of the place.
Tourists, on most occasions, are the ones drinking and throwing bottles around, even in jungles where wildlife often gets hurt due to this. You often see them professing their love on the walls of our historical monuments or picnicking around and leaving paper plates behind. Their focus seems more to make the most of the place, how to get the possible value for money or to experience the freedom to do things that they can’t at home
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Tourists have groups; travelers can go solo
We being travelers can go anywhere even if it has to be alone. We look for opportunities to travel, connect with people, look for unknown destinations and feel the moment. For this purpose, we often do not require any companion as the journey itself is our companion. But a tourist often seeks comfort and engagement in the company they move around with. They need to have their friends/family with them otherwise they the whole trip becomes a bit mundane
Tourists see; travelers experience
More than often we see people reaching a destination, taking pictures, eating good food and leaving. As if they are on a mission to cross off destinations from a list. People like us, travelers, however, focus more on experiences, emotions of the place rather than the number of destinations they have been to. They are the ones who will come back with stories to share and can engage an audience in deep conversations about their journeys.
Leave your comments and let us know what your experiences are!
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Hi Archana Vidur
Amazing article. really enjoyed reading this! Thanks for sharing!
For the longest time I’ve liked to consider myself as a “traveller” and not a “tourist” but I feel this distinction can often times turn snobbish. Sometimes I like comfort although I regularly seek adventure – if you know what I mean! But that being said – there’s truly no other alternative than to being a responsible tourist, traveller whichever. It’s indeed very important to contribute instead of only extracting!
I’m a Traveller
Any experiences you have had similar to ours??
This is very good to read Archana. You both are enjoying your life well. I say myself as a Traveller. One hell of experience as a traveller we had is while riding to vagamon from Munnar thorugh the unknown route and deep forest where there is no road at all. We (I and My wife) scared lot and any how we have struggled lot and get out of that forest and reached vagamon. We met different kind of people who guided and miss-guided us. When we reached Vagamon it was heavily rain and too dark. A beautiful family helped us to provide accommodation and dinner. Overall its a thrilling experience. I must say that day was our First wedding anniversary 🙂
Wow. First of all thanks for reading and leaving your comment. Yes travel is a beautiful thing but sometimes the fear of the unknown takes the better of us. But we must carry on and face these fears. Keep traveling, do read other posts as well and do subscribe. We would love to have your comments on other posts as well!!!! Cheers.
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Thanks . I have already shared with friends to avoid silly practices of tourists spoiling the environment.
It is a lovely n well thought out article Archana. I consider myself a traveler and can relate to every point that u have mentioned here. I crave to travel to new places and meet new people, see new cultures. When u r traveler it doesn’t matter if u have someone to travel with, enough money, time etc. everything are just things that hold u back, a real traveler will always find a way to explore n live his/her dreams.
This is an awesome informative article. I really liked the way you described about Tourist and traveler. For me, I guess I am blend of both … depends on the situation
Well we like to be on the both sides of the spectrum. Sometimes we love doing a lot of touristy things like boating and visiting mall roads and on other trips we like to do offbeat things that travellers would do, like exploring the culture, local food and talking to people. We love a blend of both.
You have highlighted the difference clearly, well I am a traveler and proud of this fact. I have met many tourists, in fact visit any popular hill station, you will find it flooded with tourists. But I believe traveling is all about experiencing it.
This is such a nice article. It made me feel so good being a traveler. The comparisons that you have drawn are on point. And I specially like the word play in it, the meaning it exudes. Really enjoyed reading this article.
Your post made me so happy! Yay! I am a traveller! However, I wasn’t aware that tourist and travelers, each have so many dimensions to their behaviours. Fantastic post (as always)
I love blending in, hence I prefer slow travelling. Going solo is love for me. Travel actually fills me up like the food for the soul. in return I try to be as responsible as possible. And definitely it sure an experience for me. With the comfort adventure going, I still remember how I enjoyed the chilling cold of North Sikkim while others kept on complaining about it. I had the monk to my rescue though. 😛
So hell yeah!!!! I am a traveler. 🙂
Having travelled for the better part of the past 3 years, I can say that am a bit of both. Its actually circumstantial.
At times, I am a hardcore traveller, roughing it out, taking it slow, and going with the flow. But at times, when the time is short, I am like a tourist in a new town.
Its like every traveller is a tourist. But every tourist is Not a traveller.
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