Tourist vs traveler? Which are you? Myself I am a proud traveler. I travel to experience life and cultures in different places, to be at one with the locals and fit in wherever my adventures take me. As an ambassador of my country, I am always polite and understanding when abroad. I am respectful and thoughtful so I will not further give a reason for any negative connotations of my countrymen.
I have been a tourist before and even these days in my travels when I find that exceptional location I have been known to take a day to splurge and relax but I still wouldn’t consider myself a tourist for doing so. There are many big differences between the two. Some can argue the finer points but if you pay attention to the behavior of others while traveling you will understand the negative stigma behind being a tourist.
A tourist is arrogant and expects the world to accept them as they are. A traveler is thoughtful and understanding and makes an effort to fit in.
A tourist will hit the all you can eat places like it’s a challenge to see how many different dishes they can stuff themselves with. I’ve seen them come back to their tables sometimes with two plates stacked a mile high with different types of food all slopped together. A traveler modestly tries a small selection of culinary delights knowing they can always get more of anything that particularly enlightened their palette.
A tourist is content never leaving the all inclusive. Sitting at a swim up bar getting lobster-red sunburns while becoming louder, drunker and more obnoxious every minute. For tourists that is an ideal vacation. A traveler slips out of the resort and travels the side streets to find the local markets, restaurants, and attractions. Exploring the sights, sounds, smells, and colors of the place they are visiting.
A tourist goes out to eat food they are familiar with, such as burgers and food they are accustomed to eating at home. McDonald’s, Dominos pizza, and many other chains expect this and usually are a big attraction in any of the tourist strips. A traveler finds out what the local cuisine is and heads out on the side streets to discover real ethnically diverse delicacies.
A tourist is rude and ignorant when dealing with people, A traveler treats everyone with patience and respect, just like they wish to be treated.
A tourist expects to be treated like a king because they are a paying guest. A traveler treats their hosts like a king, knowing that they are a guest.
A tourist expects and usually insists everyone speaks English. They get louder and ruder by the minute in this mindset. A traveler tries everything from hand gestures to drawing pictures in the dirt if their rusty high school Spanish lessons can’t get them by.
A tourist does not regard laws and rules. A traveler does and goes out of their way to accept them.
A tourist doesn’t care about proper local etiquette or customs. Claiming ignorance is good enough if they offend. A traveler is there to learn exactly what local customs and etiquette are so they can follow them and be a better guest in that country.
A tourist happily pays a lot to be part of a big group that goes to see the most famous and overcrowded spots. A traveler rents a car or hops a bus to get off the beaten path and explore local attractions and hotspots on their own schedule.
A tourist dresses and acts flashy as if they were better than everyone else. A traveler does his best to fit in and keep a low profile.
A tourist is destructive to the environment around them, leaving trash behind and not caring about ecological problems they create that can easily be avoided. A traveler lives by the tread lightly mindset, packing their trash out and being very respectful of the rules in every place as to save the ecological marvels as they found them.
A tourist pays to see exploited animals, such as dolphinariums, for-profit zoos and street vendors offering pictures with cute critters. A traveler never promotes or gives money to continue further exploitation and cruelty of animals.
A tourist acts before they think. A traveler always thinks before they act.
I have traveled the world and am always frustrated by watching the “ugly Americans” (Canadians are guilty too) that insist on being rude and disrespectful to local people. I have seen bad manners and rude tourists on every trip I have ever taken in my life. While talking with locals around the world I have found many have learned about our culture from the distorted view that media and television present. Compound that with rude pushy tourists that invade their countries briefly for pleasure, with no regard for foreign culture, etiquette, and laws.
Well, when you look at it from their perspectives, it’s understandable why there is so much negative stigma around being American and Canadian tourists.