No one wants to be classified as a tourist. Even just writing the word tourist makes me shudder. There is a huge difference between the two and I understand that for many first-time travelers, it’s much easier to be a tourist. You need to do the research and learn about where you’re going, what to eat, the customs, and all that. But I implore you, there is so much more to gain from a destination when you choose to embrace it and get your head out of the guidebook.
1. Tourists keep their nose in the guidebook, Travelers seek out locals. You can always spot the tourist with their trusty Lonely Planet or Rick Steves book in hand, constantly looking confused. They only eat at restaurants that are in the book, only visit sites in the book, only stay at hotels in the book. A traveler seeks information from their friends who have been to the city, they stay at B&Bs someone on the train recommended to them, and they never judge a restaurant by the exterior.
2. Tourists stick to an itinerary, Travelers embrace change. Sure when traveling, it’s necessary to have some sort of idea of what you are going to do once you get there. Tourists usually have everything scheduled to the minute, planning meals around museum schedules. They know where to be and at what time. Travelers understand the best adventures are those that aren’t planned and embrace train delays and bad weather. They have a good idea of what they want to do and see, but aren’t chained to a rigid plan.
One of my absolute favorite memories from any trip was when I threw away the plans. While traveling through Italy, we decided to ditch our scheduled trip to Florence (had hotels and tours booked) and headed to the train station to get tickets to Cinque Terre. I spent three days in the most beautiful place in the world, eating the best food in the world with someone I loved. There are few things better than that.
3. Tourists stand out, Travels blend in. It’s just like Wedding Crashers told us: Rule #7: Blend in by standing out. Tourists try to be casual in their appearance, but end up sticking out with their fanny packs, ‘Merica shirts and belief that speaking louder in English makes someone understand you. Travelers understand that understated is best and make sure to learn the key phrases in the language they are visiting.
Don’t be a tourist, be a traveler.