The Tourist vs Traveler Debate – A Personal Take

There area some people who want to emphasize the difference between a tourist and a traveler, especially when describing themselves. I’ve seen a lot of debate on this, and even more tips on travel etiquette and on how to generally act when visiting a new place. Am I clear on what the difference between a traveler and a tourist is? Not really. Not unless you mean Irish Travelers and then maybe I get it.

You might try to differentiate between vacation travelers and long-term/permanent travelers. Or tourists. Whatever word you choose to use,Β itΒ doesn’t clear it up. The truth of it is that tourist was the word chosen to describe everything wrong with people who travel. The loud, obnoxious, uninformed, insensitive people out there – those who make everyone look bad – got lumped together in the tourist category and I totally understand the need to not be in the same category as them.

But the ministries are still of tourism, the branch of business and economy is still tourism, and using a dedicated word for this bunch makes them sound like a bigger crowd then they are. They seem to be many because the ones who act like that are really hard to miss.

Just take a look at this infographic I stumbled across:

Tourist vs Traveler

Doesn’t the column on the left describe total douchebags? I think it does. Disrespectful, uninformed (being uneducated is not the same, because people lacking formal education can still learn on their own), mean, loud, and prone to being overcharged. Besides, some of these rules are confusing. If you have to stay true to yourself, how can you respect mindsets and practices that are against everything you stand for? I mean, would you ask a dog owner to eat a dog meat dish and expect him not to go on a long, yelling-type rant about how dogs aren’t food?

Or here’s a different example: you know those dolphin “hunts” in Japan that everyone says are cruel. Are you supposed to immerse yourself in those experiences? You can be aware of certain things, not interfere, and then stay as far away from them as possible. Β You might respect their right to still do it, but not respect the custom, and that’s fine. You’re not a douchy tourist, relax! You might think these examples extreme, but they aren’t the worst I could think of.

And isn’t this traveler pedestal also misleading? I am sure we’re all wonderful human beings after 20 hours of flight, bad food, possibly a delayed connection, getting on the wrong buss, and after finding out there was a problem with our booking. I am sure at that point, if someone says something to us, we are 100% unable to snap or just go to our room and cry and think the place we’re in sucks. No? Yeah, I thought so. I also know anyone would feel better the next day after a hot meal, a shower, and a nice, long sleep.

My take on this? I am a traveler because I travel. And I am a tourist because I am another number on tourism statistics and budgets. Other than that, I try not to act like a total moron, be as nice as I can, and generally try not to annoy the life out of people. The end πŸ™‚

What’s your take on this?

27 thoughts on “The Tourist vs Traveler Debate – A Personal Take

  1. Where did you get that graphic? Stereotypes at their worst! I agree with you, distinction is not important. I try to avoid crowds when traveling and at home, but that is just my preference. I agree we need to be respectful when traveling, and I hope people would behave like that in their home town, too.

    1. Jen, I found it repinned a few times on my Pinterest home and I finally decided I had to say something about it πŸ˜€ I’ve seen the same type of differentiation made in several other circumstances over the years, and right now… a rant was born πŸ˜€

  2. I’m trying to be a traveler but it wasn’t like that all the time. I think in some situations I’m still a tourist, but I try to fight with it and be more open-minded.

    1. The point is there is no tourist vs traveler thing! We’re human, we make mistakes, we learn, we become better at enriching our souls with out travels πŸ™‚

  3. I love this post! I think there are people who see themselves as one or the other, and I like the comparisons made in the graphic. I have been travelling my whole life and I am living in my 8th country at the moment. I see myself as a traveler and a tourist mix. I try to immerse myself into the culture and learn as much as possible about the country, city, culture and people of the place that I am visiting while maintaining my moral standards as a human being by staying true to myself. I will share this post on my Facebook page, it is a great post for discussion and insight.

    1. Thanks so much, Sheri, I’m so happy you found it to be interesting. I am tired of the debate a bit, all we have to do is try to act with a bit of common sense, keep our eyes and minds open, and generally try to be nice. No need to lump all the negativity together and call it “tourism” πŸ˜€

  4. I love this post and I really get your point! I make a difference because there are so much cliche and I believe it has a huge impact on what the locals think of a population in general. That’s sad, but that’s part true I guess. I can only speak for French people and I can tell you they really annoyed me when I settled in TLV! Great post! x

    1. There are people who will annoy you, that’s true. i remember one time in Oludeniz, we were on the beach and there was only one loud group, screaming and laughing like crazy. They of course were the only ones. I felt like shit that they were Romanian as well πŸ˜€ But hey, we were Romanian too, we weren’t like that. There are people who act nicely and people who act badly. We are just faster to recognize our own (and I was shown that quite soon after when a new family checked into our hotel and I was shown the incident on the beach was nothing). Being rude has nothing to do with where you’re coming from.

  5. I am a traveler because I travel. And I am a tourist because I am another number on tourism statistics and budgets.

    I totally agree on this line, Alina. I really don’t go much about the rules but I consider myself as a traveler since I literally TRAVEL! I also check on tourism figures just to make sure that I am on the budget. I don’t scrimp when I travel but I don’t also overspend. I limit myself to what I am capable of only. Sometimes, there is a thin line between being able to figure out how much you really need to spend while traveling and how much you are going to splurge. Anyhow, I find this post very enlightening and refreshing too. πŸ™‚

    1. True, splurging is a different aspect of budgeting. And apparently it makes you a tourist πŸ˜€ I just saw a new ignorant infographic today, and unless you say no to all the luxury and hitchhike and pretty much act irresponsible and tell no one where you are (because safety is overrrated), you’re a tourist.

  6. When people asked me if I’m a tourist or a traveler, I can’t help but snort sometimes. Why do we care soo much about labels? Haha! There is nothing wrong with being a tourist, really, especially when a person simply wants to enjoy a break from work.

    1. Totally agree! I experienced that in Oludeniz. Spent three weeks there and half of that time was “wasted” lounging at the hotel pool. I wanted to see a lot more than I ended up seeing, but it was my first break in a few good years and I was too exhausted to do everything I wanted. I did get to go paragliding though πŸ˜€ Nothing would have kept me from that!

  7. Being from Ireland I find it interesting you brought up the Irish travelling community ? I’m a tour guide and I deal with a lot of people and I have to admit I have come across a few ‘tourists’. But it isn’t fair to lump everyone in the same category.

    1. I mentioned them because it’s the only instance I could think of where traveler would mean something slightly different πŸ˜€ I somehow managed to run across Irish travellers in recent tv shows and books I’ve read πŸ˜€ One of them was an amazing love story, the other a detective story.

      As a tour guide, I get why you wouldn’t be so thrilled with those defined here as “tourists,” but I agree, it’s unfair, and in some cases… the real world just doesn’t work like that. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to take part in cultural activities that… say go against basic human rights.

  8. Haha! I totally agree with the last paragraph – I’m a traveler and a tourist and hate the holier-than-thou debate going on between words. Aren’t we all guilty of bouncing between the two columns πŸ˜› This is great.

    1. Chantae, totally agree with you! None of us is perfect and if you give us enough time, we’ll be caught doing something “touristy”

  9. I agree! I refuse to choose between being a traveler and being a tourist. I’m not going to apologize for wanting to see the Colosseum when I am in Rome. The big attractions can be really fun! And it’s hard to totally immerse yourself in a foreign culture if you don’t speak the language. I just try to do my best to be polite, have fun, and learn things. If that makes me a tourist or a traveler, I don’t care.

    1. Stella, I love your approach! Honestly, I think dismissing an attraction despite it’s cultural, historical, or artistic value just because it’s popular shows ignorance, not forward-thinking πŸ˜€ I was a Latin geek in high-school. Of course I want to see the Colosseum πŸ˜€ And I did see it

  10. Lots of articles on this topic, mostly by writers insisting they are a TRAVELER and not the so-hated tourist. There’s even a quote I read, something like “The tourist travels to another country to be photographed in front of his car.”

    I try not to stereotype as much as I can, and to remember that each to their own! If someone wants to go to a place to relax in the resort, take a spa and go out for a few drinks with their friends- who am I to tell them that they’re doing travel wrong? A colleague of mine is off to Tenerife next week and since I’m moving near there this year I’ve done a little research, so I was asking her if she’s going to do this or that hike and go to this and that hidden place but no, she is quite happy taking her kids to the beach and having a detox before coming back to the daily grind. And that’s fine too πŸ™‚

    1. Of course it is fine! I mean… I can’t imagine wanting to relax on your vacation, and then going on a hike with kids. I think by the end of it, if you’re not in the right mind for something, you might be too stressed out. Sometimes, you need the downtime to recover. And that is fine! I honestly thought I’d never be able to do that, until I was forced to because apparently after a few years with no trips and no breaks, all you want to do is… nothing πŸ˜€

  11. ha it’s funny when i was visiting grenada in the caribbean, the locals made it a point to differentiate me, who stayed on the island, vs. the cruise ship visitors who just hopped into town for day from sea. it’s funny how people like to categorize visitors differently but i think it’s nice that people just make the effort to travel at all!


    1. Labels and categories are how we navigate the world. And the locals would differentiate because you vs them needed different things, and expected different things from them. In a way, that’s more functional. When we travel bloggers do it, it’s more about a holier than though attitude, honestly.

  12. I’ve had this conversation so many times – I think its find to be a tourist (we’re called the Weekend Tourist) but the same rules still apply – be respectful and be yourself!

    1. Exactly! You can’t use traveler as a shield and deflect any accusations of acting badly. Use whatever name you like, you’re still expected to act like a decent human being πŸ˜€

  13. I’ve seen this debate a lot lately and I tend to agree with your outlook. By simply being a good person when traveling or not, you’ll attract other good people, be it locals or other “tourists/travelers” and it will enhance your overall travel experience.

    1. Spot on, EG πŸ˜€ The best thing you can do is act like a decent human being πŸ˜€ The rest is just semantics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.