Why it's better to be a tourist than a traveller

Female TouristFlickr / David van der MarkThere’s much to be said for the unpretentious ways of a so-called tourist.

Nowadays, there seems to be a raging debate about the difference between “tourists” and “travellers.”

The term “tourist” has become an insult, a culturally insensitive stereotype found sunburnt and selfie stick in hand.

Travellers, on the other hand, are lauded as adventurous, savvy, and willing to step out of their comfort zones.

However, there’s much to be said for the unpretentious ways of a so-called tourist.

Here’s what they do right:

1. Tourists know how to maximise their time off

Instead of wasting precious time and money in an internet café trying to book a last-minute room or wandering around for hours trying to find a “local gem” rather than eating in a guidebook-recommended restaurant, tourists spend their time more efficiently and deliberately, allowing for more time spent doing what they actually want to do, whether it’s soaking up the sites or the sun.

2. Tourists can be lazy sans guilt

Woman sitting on beach in turks and caicos, caribbeanFlickr/cowb0y2000Tourists can lay out on a Caribbean beach without feeling guilty that they’re missing something authentic.

Being a traveller can come with a lot of pressure — pressure to find the road less travelled, pressure to soak up boatloads of culture, pressure to see everything while at the same time avoiding other travellers (because being around fellow travellers ultimately makes you a tourist.) Tourists, on the other hand, can laze at the beach, piña colada in hand, without feeling guilty for not doing something slightly more significant.

3. Tourists can easily unwind

It takes a lot of work to effectively embody the traveller stereotype while making it look effortless: travellers work hard to see, do, and experience everything — and do it all without the help of a map or guidebook. Travellers can become so caught up with turning every minute into a culturally significant moment, and making each trip a journey that they forget they’re on vacation, thus eschewing some much-needed rest and relaxation.

4. Tourists can do what they actually want to do

From getting cornrows in Jamaica to riding elephants in Thailand to taking those dreaded “holding up the Tower of Pisa” pictures, tourists are hard to embarrass (just check out their fanny packs!). But that’s a good thing. Their lack of concern about doing things that are deemed touristy or shameful frees them up to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and thereby fully take control of their time off.

5. Tourists can explore the beaten path

Tourists at the great pyramids in cairo egyptSharron McClellan/FlickrTourists at the great pyramids in Egypt.

The beaten path may be beaten for a reason. Because it’s good. Because it’s interesting. What, are you going to visit Cairo without seeing the pyramids because it’s touristy?

6. Tourists can get the best photos

It must be crippling to always be concerned with what others think. Often, travellers don’t keep their cameras handy for fear of “looking like a tourist.” Too bad, because they just missed a shot of that massive wave crashing into Bali’s Tanah Lot temple while digging around their enormous backpacks for their camera phone.

7. Tourists can play off faux pas

Slurping noodles in Osaka, JapanFlickr/mcklnIt’s considered polite to slurp your noodles in Japan.

Tourists can always clutch their guidebook and say they didn’t know any better when they gave a thumbs up in Iran, didn’t slurp their noodles in Japan, or refused a drink in Ukraine. A self-pronounced traveller, however, probably
should have known better.

8. Tourists can share their experiences with others

Meeting locals is obviously great, but that shouldn’t mean avoiding your own country folk like the plague. Unlike the traveller who resents all other travellers, tourists don’t expect to have holy sites and world wonders to themselves. It’s easier to make new acquaintances and share your experiences when you’re not trying to avoid other people who are travelling too.

9. Tourists can fend off muggers with their massive guidebooks

You might laugh at the guidebook wielding tourists, but they just might have the last laugh when it doubles as a weapon.

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