Tourist or Traveler

While working on another writing assignment, I was led to research the definition of these two terms.  According to….

  • a Tourist is a person who travels for pleasure, usually sightseeing and staying in hotels.
  • a Traveler is a person who travels especially habitually

At first blush, there does not seem to be much of a difference except the tourist is associated more with sightseeing (seeing places and/or objects of interest) – whereas the traveler seems to travel to foreign lands on a more frequent basis.

According to these definitions, I could be classified as both.  I enjoy seeing places of interest and staying in hotels … and I like to travel as often as finances allow (which will hopefully be more habitual now that I am retired).

So I decided to research a bit further.  In a Google query I discovered that several in the travel industry do not consider these terms synonymous and they are quick to offer their opinion.

USA Today reported that tourists tend to “look the part” as they are loaded with maps, travel guides and camera gear.  They rarely venture off the beaten path and try to maintain an American comfort zone no matter what country they visit.

Travelers, on the hand, will immerse themselves in the culture, staying in local neighborhoods, conversing in the native language, and oftentimes traveling outside the center of the city.

Other websites mention that tourists search out American comforts such as McDonald’s or Starbucks, whereas travelers tend to not only eat the local cuisine, but choose to do so in those establishments that are frequented by natives. Travelers, they argue, have more of a sense of adventure.

Some go as far as to say that tourists travel in order to tick items off their bucket list… whereas travelers desire to connect with the people, become intimate with the landscape, discover a bit more about their own place in the world.  Travelers are more open-minded to accept the culture and traditions of whatever country they are visiting, whereas tourists are reticent to accept anything outside their own cultural norm.

Then there are some who are perhaps a bit cynical.  They claim that tourists will only stay in nice hotels in the center of the city, whereas true travelers will backpack the country roads and stay in cheap hostels.

Travel Blogs asked several industry bloggers this question and a surprising number claimed that there is virtually no difference.  They assert that the terminology is often used by pretentious types who view themselves higher than they ought.

In the end, I have decided that I embody the spirit of both.  I enjoy seeing the iconic landmarks and I don’t feel shame in that. I have heard of the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Colosseum, and Buckingham Palace my entire life.  I want to see these historical locations for myself – and yes, I want to take pictures to bring home in order to help me recount the trip to others.

But I also enjoy staying in apartments in secluded neighborhoods, frequenting the shops and restaurants of the surrounding area and pretending that I am actually a native for this short period of time.

So, I think I will consider myself a “toureveler”  Not only is it a combination of tourist and traveler, but it is also a combination of:

  • Tour:  traveling around from place to place; a long journey including the visiting of a number of places in sequence.
  • Reveler:  one who takes great pleasure or delight

I do find great delight in taking a long journey and visiting several different places for a prolonged period of time – whether it be international or domestic.  And when I am not traveling, I am planning my next adventure, creating the itinerary of a tourist but leaving plenty of free time for serendipitous exploration.

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