Be a traveler, not a tourist

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There’s a big difference between a traveler and a tourist and you should choose carefully what you want to be. If you look in the Oxford Dictionary, the words “traveler” and “tourist” have almost the same definition, so the difference is more subtle.

Over the years, I met many people who talked about the subject traveler vs. tourist. Some didn’t find any difference between the terms, some considered them to be travellers because it ‘sounded good’ and some admitted there is a slight difference between the terms. But this difference varies from person to person.

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It is often said that “a tourist is a traveller without experience, and a traveller is an experienced tourist.” I couldn’t agree more with this quote and I’ll tell you why I think that.

To me, a tourist is a person who visits a city and wants to go to see the most important tourist attractions, who wants to snap a cool picture in front of all and to share it on Instagram or Facebook. A tourist doesn’t pay attention to all the details that make a city so beautiful, like the architecture of normal houses or the people and he always searches for the best souvenir shop in order to buy the best souvenir.

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On the other side, a traveler tries to blend in, to see the unseen part of the city apart from the famous tourist attractions. A traveler tries to experience all the things the city has to offer, the good and the bad and wants to learn as much as he can. A traveler is curious about the lives of the people in the city. And, most of all, a traveler never wants to take a picture with the sole purpose of sharing it on the internet. For a traveler, a picture is more than an image to put in the internet, it’s a story, a memory.

Apart from the differences between a tourist and a traveler, I wanted to share with you a story I read half a year ago and changed my way of thinking.

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Even if you are a tourist or a traveler, try to pay attention, try not to be ignorant, because this world is full of so many beautiful places and people that don’t deserve to be ignored. Let’s take, for example, a trip to the Louvre Museum. It is a well known thing that many people visit the Louvre to see the world famous Mona Lisa painting. Many people just stroll through the museum just to find that one painting, to photograph it and then they just stroll towards the exit happy that they saw the Mona Lisa. And they even have a picture of it!

Believe me, this is not a good thing. No doubt that Mona Lisa is a great painting, but there are so many beautiful pieces of art in the Louvre that should be seen that you shouldn’t limit yourself to that one. The Louvre is one of the biggest art museums in the world and hosts great works of art. Go and see the Venus de Milo statue, the Virgin of the Rocks painting by Leonardo da Vinci, The Astronomer painting by Vermeer or The Massacre at Chios by Delacroix. There is a huge list of beautiful artwork that should be seen. So don’t limit yourself! Try and see more. The more you see, the richer you are.

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This reminds me of the quote that I love: “Travelling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” If you have the privilege to travel, to visit so many amazing places, then don’t limit yourself. Try and see what surrounds us. Try and make most of it. Try and see the unseen part of a city because that tends to be the best. Don’t limit yourself to go to the tourist attractions from a tourist guide, go to places that aren’t so highly rated. When walking, don’t keep your head down and just walk. Look around yourself, watch the beauty in the small things, watch the people’s faces. By doing this, a holiday won’t just be a holiday where you relaxed, it will be an experience and you will come home richer — not regarding money, but regarding spiritual richness.

Whether you’re a traveler or a tourist, it doesn’t matter which, just try and open your eyes and see the most of it. Try and see the art pieces that aren’t in the travel guides, try and take a walk to a normal quarter of a town, sit at a neighbourhood cafe or restaurant and have something traditional to eat and drink. It’s usually this little gems that are the best, not the over rated things.

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20 thoughts on “Be a traveler, not a tourist

  1. I am a traveler! When I went to Rome in May and we went to visit the Vatican my family was more concerned with the Sistine Chapel and overlooked all of the beauty artwork. I was more amazed by the other paintings I seen. I love to visit new places and absorb the culture. Every piece of it. Great post.

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  2. Beautifully written. Absolutely loved reading it!It’s only few years back I figured the difference between being a tourist and a traveler. From your post,I see that, traveling shapes one into an interesting person. It helps you to be more creative. Keep writing such awesome stuffs!

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  3. There’s definitely a difference and I am a mixture between the two. On some trips I’m a traveller. I have a separate bag of clothing in my attic for travelling. Stuff that hand washes and dries well. Sarongs that become towels etc. But not all trips can be travelling trips which is where I’m more of a tourist.

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