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Thread: "Tourist" versus "Traveler"

  1. #1
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    "Tourist" versus "Traveler"

    The difference between Tourists and Travelers is a hotly-debated topic on many travel websites. I've had mixed feelings about this issue for many years, but here's my current opinion...

    "Tourist" can, in some cases, be considered a subset of "Traveler." In other words, all Tourists are Travelers, but not all Travelers are Tourists. That's one way of looking at the situation, at least.

    The primary recurring issue is that most Travelers consider themselves to be distinct from, and superior to Tourists. Personally, I don't subscribe to that theory.

    While most Travelers are probably better-prepared for their journeys than most Tourists, those Travelers are not Better People than Tourists. Those who describe themselves as "Travelers" often do so to paint themselves as superior to "mere Tourists." In my opinion, that attitude doesn't make you better than a Tourist... it just makes you an Asshole.

    In truth, both Travelers and Tourists can be good people or bad people. An "Ugly Tourist" can just as easily be an "Ugly Traveler."


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    But... Let's consider that Tourists and Travelers are two distinct types...

    I would say that, quite simply, a Tourist is a person who is visiting an unfamiliar location (either foreign or domestic) for the purpose of personal enjoyment. In other words, for a "Vacation."

    On the other hand, I would say that a Traveler is a person who is visiting an unfamiliar location for the purpose of education or incidental to employment or other obligations. A Traveler might also be a kind of Tourist who is interested in a more in-depth, cultural experience than the average tourist. There are a lot of nuances here, but I think that you get the point.

    While self-righteous "Travelers" often look down their noses at Tourists, I don't think that's cool. Being a pure Tourist exposes you to experiences that you might miss if you take your travel too seriously. It's OK to be a Tourist. Just don't pass up the opportunity to be a more serious "Traveler", when that's appropriate.

    Costa Rica is great for both types of visitors. Tourists visit CR to hang upside-down on a zip-line traveling at 40 miles-per-hour through the cloud-forest canopy. Travelers visit CR to take amazing photographs of the hummingbirds living in the Cerro de la Muerte area. Both visitors are welcome here, as are many other visitors, with many other travel goals. If you're a "better-than-thou" kind of person, check that attitude before you arrive in CR. We don't need it. Your self-righteous travel philosophy doesn't make you any better than a Tourist who is in Costa Rica to get his party on... it just makes you an arrogant asshole.

    I believe that what most people perceive as the inferiority of the Tourist is actually the crass disrespect that many visitors (often casual tourists) display for the country which they are visiting. It doesn't matter if you're a "Traveler" or a "Tourist"... groping 18-year-old girls in bars, chastising the locals for not speaking English, etc. is just ridiculous.

  2. #2
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    I would, however, encourage people to enjoy their travel more than they do. It's amazing to me how many people fall into the typical paradigm of a "Tourist", even if they don't want to. Some examples...


    1) Skip the massive photo-taking. I take more photos now than I used to. Small smartphones with massive memory capacity make it a lot easier than it used to be. However, just 5 or 6 years ago, I rarely took photos while I was traveling. Before the smartphone cameras achieved their current quality and usefulness, you used to have to carry around an actual camera. I never did that. I've visited almost 200 Sovereign States, and I have photos of less than 10% of them. I was enjoying the view, not snapping photos. Far too many people spend too much time on their vacation or travel, setting up and taking photos. Don't let your camera have a better vacation than you.

    2) Don't queue for a "Touristy" site. If the wait to get into the Louvre is 3 hours, then skip it and go do something else. Fortunately, the availability of online reservations for such attractions is always getting better. Take advantage of that, to avoid spending half of your time standing in line.

    3) Always leave more than half of your time open for "impromptu" excursions. This works particularly well when selecting dining venues. Don't make too many dining reservations for your trip. Instead, plan on just "popping into" a random cafe or restaurant for a meal. These are some of the best experiences that you'll have.

    4) As much as I love to travel, I must admit that travel is the biggest time-waster on any trip. If you're on a 7-night visit to France, don't plan on visiting Paris, Nice, and 3 other cities in France. You should spend at least 3 nights at each location that you visit, in most cases. Otherwise, you're spending the bulk of your time "In Transit."

    5) If you're traveling without children, try to meet a few locals online before you visit. They can help you to find some of the "local" spots, rather than the typical tourist traps. This doesn't usually work well if you're traveling with young children, and you should always be careful about traveling with strangers. Be smart, but also take advantage of this opportunity. Usually, meeting someone at a local venue, with 2 or 3 fellow travelers, in a group, ensures your safety, and also results in a nice "group" experience at a local venue.

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