Tourist vs. Traveler
Before I get started, I want to make one thing very, very clear: there is nothing wrong with the way anybody travels! The difference between a tourist and a traveler is not that one is better or more authentic than the other, they’re just different! I don’t want a bunch of nasty emails from people who are angry that I’m dissing their lifestyle choices. You do you, boo!
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, this subject is really important to me because I believe it makes me different from a lot of other travel blogs out there. AGAIN – this isn’t to say that I’m any better or any worse than anybody else! I love to see the world from another view (PS. I’m a traveler!), and truly live in another place, another culture, another life.
Airbnb vs. Couchsurfing
Airbnb boasts beautiful balconies (sorry, couldn’t resist the alliteration) and amazing homes everywhere in the world, from right in the middle of the bustling city to kind of away from everything. I mean I’ll be honest – I’ve seen some homes for rent that I would kill to stay in one day. They’re stunning! Ain’t nothing wrong with staying in an awe-inspiring rental! For all the tourists out there, more power to ya!
Couchsurfing, on the other hand, is really as travel-centric as you can get. Sleeping on a local’s couch for free, probably in exchange for some sort of conversation, a drink, or maybe just a clean kitchen? Couchsurfing takes the capitalism right out of the travel industry and brings it back to a simple exchange of perspectives.
Travel agent vs. Workaway
While on the topic of capitalism in the travel industry, a travel agent is a must-have for tourists. No matter how you travel (for the most part), that flight-transportation-lodging-meal plan combination can be a doozy, and it’s definitely helpful for tourists to have that kind of search engine available to them.
Travelers, however, prefer simplicity and a much more conservative budget. A traveler might go for the hitchhiking or public transportation experiences – both for the low cost and the fact that they can absolutely be an experience for the books. Many travelers also opt-in for programs like Workaway.com, which offers you food and lodging for some agreed-upon length of time (usually for several weeks) in exchange for a few hours of work a day – maybe front desk at a hostel, or maybe learning how to operate the local vineyard. Are you starting to get the difference between a tourist and a traveler yet?
Taking time off work vs. working abroad
To be fair, this difference isn’t really as black and white as the rest, but in some cases it does exist. There are tons of travelers out there who work a full time job, and only get to travel during their vacation days. But, for the sake of really augmenting the difference between a tourist and a traveler, let’s pretend this part really is mutually exclusive.
A tourist will usually keep their traveling down to the couple weeks they have off work. They take that one chance, once a year, to really go hard in their traveling and just splurge on hotels and fancy meals. I know, sounds wonderful, right? I’d love to just splurge for a couple weeks for the sake of vacationing!
Travelers, however, tend to have a much more solid commitment to travel. They’re the ones with the inspiring blogs saying “this is how I quit my job to travel the world!”. Travelers do that because, well, if you identify as a traveler, you can’t really get away with not ever traveling, can you? That being said, a traveler tends to put everything into traveling – like I did, when I lived abroad and, from a traveler’s standpoint, it totally changed my life. Because, as a traveler, that’s what I search for.
$50 luggage fees vs. $150 backpack
“What? I thought tourists spend more money on traveling!”
Yeah, they generally do. But think about it: who usually needs to really invest in luggage? This is a huge difference between a tourist and a traveler. If a tourist is only traveling a couple times a year and staying in hotels and safe spaces, why do they need a backpack? Everybody’s got luggage. Can’t take it with you on the plane? Welp, this is the one time of year where you splurge!
Travelers, on the other hand, need to invest in a good backpack. Remember their budget? A traveler can’t be bothered with losing $50 every time they travel just because they don’t have the right equipment. A traveler is more likely to be staying in shabbier lodging than a tourist, as well, meaning their backpack needs to know how to take a punch. A traveler’s accessories are all about durability!
Getting away vs. arriving
Now this perspective shift is a major difference between a tourist and a traveler. Remember how I mentioned a tourist will usually just go traveling during their vacation time? They’re getting away from their lives! Travel is an escape from reality, their responsibilities, and their stressors.
Travelers, on the other hand, live to travel. When they go abroad, they’re arriving at a new phase of life, not leaving their own real life until further notice. You know the cliché “something-something-don’t live a life you need an escape from?” Many travelers, like myself, hold that idea very close to heart. We dream too much about seeing the world and learning about other people and cultures to waste our lives away in front of a computer. Travelers need to go out there and see the world!
Taking a mental break vs. expanding your horizons
Now, I believe this is the hugest difference between a tourist and a traveler. When a tourist travels, it’s to relax by the pool with a mimosa. No phone, no computer, nothing. A tourist travels to get a mental break.
A traveler, however, goes all in when they travel. A traveler approaches locals, and stumbles their way through the language until it’s not longer an issue. If a traveler is really committed, they’ll prepare for months beforehand, reading up on do’s and don’ts and getting to know locals and the language on Verbling (which I passionately explain in depth here). While a traveler enjoys a mimosa by the pool just as much as the tourist, travel is how they learn and open their minds.