The “Traveller” vs. the “Tourist” Debate

If you haven’t participated in the debate, or seen the memes, you probably have at least heard it. The old-as-time debate of traveller vs. tourist. The quotes: “Tourists don’t know where they have been, travellers don’t know where they are going.” or “Don’t be a tourist, be a traveller.”

It is usually along the lines that tourists are complainers, they compare everything to ‘home’, they stick out, they only see what they want to see, they don’t want to get to know the culture, they are unwilling to step outside of their comfort zones, blah blah blah. And travellers are blending in with the people, embracing the culture, are open-minded, and seeing what the world presents to them. I don’t think that we need to stereotype people into one group or the other. I have to admit, I have done it in the past, but as time goes on, I realize that it’s not about comparing people as tourists vs. travellers or as suit-case toting, mindless humans to the praise-worthy, holy backpackers. Depending on the trip, it can be more practical to use a suitcase than a backpack and vice versa. And I don’t think there is a wrong way to travel. Have you ever had to roll your suitcase across dirt roads and/or cobblestone streets? Not very pleasant. Or have to walk into a classy hotel, carrying a dirty backpack? Talk about awkward.

I have met people that would be considered a tourist; using a suitcase, trying to hit all the “the must-sees”, and trying to pack as much experiences into a short period of time. And they are the most open-minded people I know. They might only have a week or two off, but they want to soak in as much culture as they can in that week. They want to talk to the locals, eat different foods, and see what life can be like somewhere else. Even if it is short-lived, they want to experience different beliefs, norms, and customs. I have also met ‘world-travellers’ that are living out a backpack, checking countries off like it’s a grocery list, and are downright horrible human beings. They are terribly closed-minded, rude, and blatantly ignore the norms and customs of a country. They seem to give their home country a bad name.

So I would like to make a short statement. Do not judge people for the way they travel. If they are more comfortable being in a large group, taking a tour, using a suitcase, only being gone for a week or two, then so be it. It goes the same for the people that want to sleep in hostels, live out of a backpack, bounce from country to country to country in a short period of time. There is no perfect way to travel and one way might suit someone better than the other. So be kind to one another, do not judge, and just enjoy the fact that people are taking the chance to see the world.



About Kait C (88 Articles)
I'm working on see the entire world, one country at a time…31 down, 165 to go. Currently in Berlin.

7 Comments on The “Traveller” vs. the “Tourist” Debate

  1. You know, I have been reading quite some posts lately. And this debate you have teased out a thought: what does the local folks think about all these visitors coming? Do they care if they are travellers or tourists?

  2. So true. Most of the tourists you come across are very nice and happy to be visiting. But its the nasty ones who give the “happy traveller” a bad name. I’ll try to keep my backpack clean!
    Great post!

  3. Great post! Never thought of it like that before.

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