The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see
Tourist and traveler are interchangeable for most people but these words have very different implications.
Tourists, for example, are very easy to spot, even if you aren’t a local. They usually have a guidebook, map and camera and are usually dressed in attire that they think is appropriate as opposed to what the culture dictates. E.g. an American in tight little shorts and a tank top in Mombasa because it’s hot, forgetting that the place is mostly populated by Muslims who takes offense at seeing anything other than a woman’s hands and eyes.
Tourists also tend to stay in certain places and wouldn’t venture off the beaten path. They often only visit popular tourist destinations and key landmarks, have their picture taken and that’s about it.
Travelers prefer to immerse themselves in the prevailing culture. They prefer to explore places where the locals go. They do not consider their travels vacations where they get to sit by a beach all day drinking fruity alcoholic drinks but rather a chance to experience something different.
It’s quite alright to be a tourist, feel free to document every single thing with your camera and stick with your tourist friends if that’s what you would rather do but you have no idea just how much you are actually missing out.
You don’t have to ditch the hotel for a hostel, but you should make an effort to learn a little. Your guidebook should not be your planner, ask some locals where the best places to go are. Take a walk in the immediate vicinity of your hotel, you may discover something awesome. Forget the chartered bus, find your way there yourself through public transport.
Travelers will most likely immerse themselves with the locals and try to blend in as soon as possible.
Go down to a popular restaurant or nightspot and ask questions about how to spend a day there and what to do, where not to go, what to eat, their culture etc. I know, I know, that the Eiffel tower is packed with tourists, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it too.
Tourists usually spends 3~4 days in one area to tick off their checklist and buy everything before they have to go back home.
A traveler usually travels at his own pace and has set aside at least two months or even a year to explore what he can.
For a tourist, taking a picture in front of a building in some foreign country is enough of an adventure, but the traveler wants to learn. There is no need to see a site, though a vague list of things he should do exists in his head. The traveler is more concerned about the journey than the actual destination. Moments of interaction and spontaneity are what make the traveler satisfied. For example chatting with the taxi driver may be more memorable than watching the sunset over the Taj Mahal.
The traveler is a sponge ready to soak up what he may, accepting the different and imperfect as he does the incredible.
If you have no time, but loads of money to spend, by all means be a tourist and vacation the world over, but if you want to learn something and have some great stories to tell while you are at it, travel, you won’t regret it.
If there’s one thing we learnt throughout all our travels at our Singapore Travel Blog, is that landmarks look exactly the same as they do on Google, nothing is different, nothing has changed. If you are just there to see the landmarks before going home, you probably can do the same on Google and save yourself on all your hotel and airfare. But sitting in a public train and watching the locals speak, act and behave, that taught us more about a country than any book ever could.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit landmarks on a whole nor that you shouldn’t have a plan. Cause when it comes down to it, the main difference between a traveler and a tourist is that a tourist sticks to his plan and a traveler doesn’t mind deviating from it. I can’t tell you how many times have we tried to get from one place to another on our own only to get lost and stumble across the most beautiful places that are unknown to most people around the globe. Even if you are to visit popular tourist landmarks, spend more time than just taking pictures and rushing back to your chartered bus. Learn about the history of the place, take a moment or two to just absorb everything in, the sight, the sound, the smell and realize how it really is a whole new world out there.