Thursday, December 18, 2008


For many, they don't know whether they are a tourist or a traveler in a particular place or country. Is there a difference? In the first place, you are a traveler if you can distinguish the difference between the 2 words. The following are not a scientific criteria as they are just pointers which will in the end might label you as a traveler or a tourist. There is nothing wrong to be labeled as a tourist or a traveler.

I compiled a number of articles and comments from forums, blogs and magazine articles regarding this very trivial matter. It looks like the debate on this issue is still on-going for quite some time now. As for me, I enjoy being a tourist and enjoy more being a traveler. What's the difference? You figure it out for yourself because I don't want to label anyone as this or that and then pat myself on the back for being open-minded, anyway the following criteria are self-explanatory. There's nothing wrong to be labeled as a traveler or just a tourist as it is a matter of preference. This is a free planet, do whatever morally right and legal all you want, including labeling yourself as a traveler or a tourist.
  • Locals like the waiters serving your breakfasts and taxi drivers would definitely prefer big spending tourists rather than seeing a flock of travelers. Explanation: Locals always prefer a bus full of Japanese tourists than a Boeing 747 full of backpackers.
  • One traveler said that if you go to another country, sit in your hotel the whole time, maybe only leave it to go and eat at a restaurant that is themed for foreign visitors to seem like you have never left your own country and if you never even interact with any locals in a destination, then it could not be called as TRAVEL
  • Tourists ditch the backpack and instead prefer those bags with wheels that you can easily drag from the airport up to your hotel/resort/motel/hostel. When you open a tourist's bag you can smell perfumes which were all bought from the Duty Free shop unlike a traveler's bag which emits a spicy scent of clothes that haven't been washed for days or even weeks.
  • Few tourists go traveling alone while backpacking travelers often vagabond solo. For a start, luxury hotels would be charging extra for a single supplement.
  • There is an irony in the sense that the "self-labeled" traveler begins to define himself against the habits of a tourist. Some judge it by how meager the lodgings or how low the budget rather than a personal navigation of the transformative experience.
  • It is sad to know that tourists are looked down on by travelers, but to an expat there is no difference between the two. But to a local, an expat may as well be an extended tourist.
According to travel writer Rolf Potts "The tourist/traveler distinction has largely degenerated into a cliquish sort of fashion dichotomy: Instead of seeking the challenges that mindful travel requires, we can simply point to a few stereotypical ‘tourists’, make some jokes at their expense, and consider ourselves ‘travelers’ by default.”

So now, are you a traveler or a tourist?


Allan Barredo said...

there's a lot of gray areas between the two, its not as simple as black and white, I think. Do you become a "traveller" when you prefer hostels over posh hotel? Do you become a "tourist" when you join a sight seeing tour. ;)

Borneo Falcon said...

I'm a traveler

the donG said...

i am most of the time a traveler.

Lawstude said...

di ko alam na may distiction pala yun, and from the way your article defines it, mukha nga na i fall into the traveler category. sabagay mas maganda pakinggan ang travel blogger kesa tourist blogger.

4malmal said...

Interesting question.
I think I am a tourist trying to be a traveler :)

Zane said...

I would love to think that rolf believes it doesn't matter... or at least it matters only to the clique-ish...