Tourist vs Traveller

20 06 2008


Lake Natron, Tanzania

The difference between a tourist and traveller is not determined by cost, age, style or destination. It is based entirely on outlook and attitude. You can just as easily find a traveller in a 5-star hotel as you can a tourist in more humble accommodation. You may just as easily encounter a traveller on the beaches of the Dominican Republic or Mexico, as you will a tourist in remote China or Peru.


A traveller lives every moment of their trip. They are appreciative of every inch of new ground that they are exploring and of everything around them. They notice the faint smells of cooking, wood smoke or blossoms that gently permeate the air. They notice the struggles or joys of life for the inhabitants: the complexities of shopping for food or taking the local transit; the status of a teacher; the local icons or heroes; the approachability and honesty of the police. They glance at the local newspaper and observe the cost of living. They strive to keep a low profile and leave behind a positive impression of visitors wherever they go, and always attempt to be polite, culturally sensitive and attempt at least a few words of the local language. They sample the food, they listen to the music and they respect local customs. They haggle for souvenirs respectfully. They read before they go, they are aware of events while they are there, and continue to take an interest once at home.


A tourist simply substitutes the comforts of home for the comforts of a hotel. They don’t stray from the property or travel only within the secure confines a well-managed group. They stick only to the food they know. They take no interest in their surroundings and attempt no interaction with the local people. When it is all over, they can barely differentiate between this year’s vacation and last year’s.


Being a traveller does not mean sacrificing comfort, taking risks or forging ahead alone. You might just as easily be sleeping in a luxury hotel and travelling as part of a small group. There is nothing elitist about being a traveller. The status does not discriminate against infirmity or education or wealth, it is simply a genuine appreciation of one’s surroundings regardless of where those surroundings might be.


It is about drawing the maximum possible reward from your travels and enriching your life with exploration of new cultures, religions, languages and lifestyles.


It is what travel is all about.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008