A Note on the ‘Traveler vs. Tourist’ Attitude

If you enjoy reading travel blogs, you’ve most likely come across articles asking you to take a good, long look at yourself and determine whether you are a traveler or just a mere tourist. These blogs use the word tourist as if it’s an ugly word, worthy of their ridicule. They talk about how they are somehow better than other people because they have managed to travel to some locale so remote and off the beaten path that most people haven’t even heard of it. They scoff at Hawaiian shirt-clad tourists sipping on cocktails at an all inclusive resort somewhere and declare with an admonishing tone that, “those people aren’t doing it right, they aren’t real travelers like me”.

I’ll admit that there was a time in my life, in my early 20’s, where I fell victim to the whole “Traveler vs. Tourist” mentality, too. I once wondered why anybody would want to travel somewhere only to go on a guided tour, or to sit at a resort and not get out there and explore the real place. I will say  that to this day, getting out and exploring and immersing myself in my destination is what I enjoy above all else. However, as I’ve gotten older and have traveled quite a lot more, I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely wrong to feel that there is any one way to travel.

Every person has their own unique idea of what is enjoyable in this life. What I might consider to be a boring waste of my time might be something somebody else thinks is wonderful. There’s nothing wrong with sipping cocktails at an all inclusive resort. For some people who have stressful lives, it might be just the recharge they need to feel refreshed. I might not particularly like guided tours due to them feeling restrictive, but to another person, it might be a wonderful opportunity for them to meet new friends and learn about the culture and history of the area.

When did we stop thinking of travel as a fun way to enjoy life, and instead start thinking of it as something to be used to “one up” others? Travel isn’t about how many pins you have in your travel map, or whether or not your travel destinations are more remote or more “hardcore” than others. It’s about having fun and enjoying life. It’s about creating memories. It’s about relaxing, experiencing new things, seeing the world, and creating a life that you will not look back upon with regret. And that means different things to different people.

With that in mind, I would like to share this photo from when I was about 14 years old and had just returned from a Christmas vacation with my family to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun. Look how happy I was. Look at my silly hair. Look at those pants I’m wearing. Was I worried about how “cool” traveling made me back then? No. I was just a kid who was enjoying life.

Back from Christmas in Cancun

It’s time we all stopped talking about whether we’re a “traveler” or a “tourist” and instead started talking about how amazing life can be. No matter which arbitrary category you fall into, your travels should be about having fun.

So, get out there and have some fun. Do something that makes you happy. That’s the only thing that matters.


7 replies »

    • Right?! So many condescending articles out there about the right and wrong way to do things. I say march to the beat of your own drum!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is a great read. I think this is a conversation that sometimes the younger Travelers have. I’ve seen people say you’re not really traveling if you don’t stay in a hostel or visit at least 3 town, but to each their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! People get hung up on what other people are doing and if it’s better or worse than what they are doing. Traveling is traveling, and we all have our reasons and what makes us happy. I did the whole backpacking hostel thing when I was younger. I’ve also spent entire trips in one city. I’ve even gone to …..GASP!….resorts. Each has it’s merits. The backpacking trips were gritty. I saw a lot, met people, and was thoroughly exhausted. The trips where I spent the whole time in one city…sure I didn’t see the whole country, but I got to relax and really get to know that one city, which is nice as well. And resorts? Sometimes you just want to chill out and drink cocktails. I work hard. Nothing wrong with that!

      To travel is to go somewhere else and experience something different than your every day. If you’re doing that, I say you’re traveling…and good for you, enjoy!


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