You remembered this moment on the plane, you were flying back to your home country and going back to work in the next 24 hours after a 2 weeks vacation in the Caribbean. You try to get yourself to sleep in that uncomfortable airplane seat but you could not. Your mind was filled with dreadful thoughts of being back to reality and you thought hard of your next vacation, where and when it is going to be. At the same time, you can’t wait to get home and share your beautiful tour photos with your family and friends. You got to get back to work and earn that hole in your bank account from that expensive tour of yours. When you stepped into your driveway, you felt a sense of happiness because you were back at somewhere familiar. Are you a traveler or tourist?
I wonder what are the differences between a tourist and a traveler? I see myself fading in and out of both categories. I am not a fan of this debate about being a traveler or tourist. But time passes and you see the differences for yourself. I am not going to write some economic level essay to compare between these two categories. At the end of the day, do not let this fall into any type of stereotyping because we all have different ways to explore the world in our own ways. Just like how every one of us have our likes, dislikes and own definition of comfort. Here are some general areas I observed and experienced to help you identify yourself and maybe people around you.
A traveler will always search for the cheapest tickets to get to somewhere. He is always looking stretch his budget, what he got is time and he got to keep to his strict daily budget. On the other hand, a tourist wants his transport standards to be at least comfortable. He is not willing to give up comfort for price in the long run because he sees the amount of money spent to be worthwhile. But that amount of money is going to last the traveler for a couple of days of accommodation in some hostel. A traveler is always looking for chance to hitchhike, even on a motorbike. A tourist will never think of that because he does not want to risk himself running into some bad guys, getting robbed and dumped somewhere, just like in the movies.
A traveler will stay in a hostel or couchsurf, or even spend the night in public places such as the airport. A tourist will never get to do that because his accommodations are already booked. A traveler is willing to volunteer a few hours of his time with a local family in exchange for accommodation. He sees immersing himself in local culture as a privilege and not an alternative. A tourist will never do that because he got an itinerary to follow to and doing something like that is going to reduce his sightseeing. A tourist came to see what he has to see, remember?
3) Character growth
A traveler comes home changed in some ways. Travel broadens the minds and enhances experience. We would like to think that everyone goes home wiser and socially smarter. A tourist wants to escape his hectic life, seek some enjoyment and excitement, and goes back feeling refreshed. We all have our own objectives for visiting a foreign country, nothing wrong with that.
If one day someone ask if you are a traveler or tourist and why, I know it is going to be a difficult question for you. What will I reply? Probably I am going to say one of them is just a better word than another, in their own ways. Even though, both words conjure up very different images of people on a journey in our minds.