solo travel · Travel Tips · Uncategorized

Why It’s OK to Be a Tourist


It’s Motivation Monday! And I’m about to make some “travelers” very mad. As a travel blogger, I try to read other travel blogs to keep up-to-date and perhaps find some travel tips or inspiration. But lately I’ve been read more articles that “tourist shame” the less experienced or those who opt for comfortable walking shoes instead of the “cool” shoes that travelers wear. (By the way, I’ve been traveling for years and I ALWAYS travel in comfortable shoes.) Are you a tourist? Or are you a traveler? The difference might surprise you.

The difference is arrogance and pretentiousness.

I know I just hurt some people’s feelings or challenged their superiority, but it’s the truth in the real world. People are always talking about stereotypes and how we should challenge them: girls can do anything boys can do, a Southern accent does not make one less intelligent, fill in your own stereotype here. Well, I’d like to clear up a stereotype about tourists: They are travelers, too! Here’s a list of reasons why:

1. If you’re traveling, you’re a traveler.

It’s true! Wit doesn’t matter whether you’ve traveled the world for years or it’s your first trip out of the state, if you’re traveling, you’re a bona fide traveler!

Waiting for our bus to the next destination! 
2. “Tourists” are not jaded.

If you insist that there is a difference between a tourist and a traveler, perhaps the only big difference is that the “tourists” you’re shaming are not jaded. Perhaps they enjoy travel more than a “traveler” because everything and every place is new and exciting. Sure, they might overpack, they might have a tourist “look” to them, but they are not too good or too “experienced” to enjoy the sites that make a place famous–like Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

SO thrilled to meet Big Ben for the first time ever! 
3. “Travelers” make mistakes, too.

Seriously, getting lost does not make you less of a traveler! Sometimes your map is out of date, sometimes you go the wrong direction on the public transportation system, and sometimes you ask a simple question that locals don’t understand (“Where’s the restroom?” instead of “Where is the toilet?”). No matter how often you travel, you still deal with jet lag and things that are just unfamiliar to you because you’re not a local–you’re a tourist, even if you’re a self-proclaimed traveler!

Ah, historic, world-renown Prague. The city where I met my husband. But also the city where a local gave me bad directions and I spent two hours trying to find my hotel 10 minutes away. It happens. 
4. Tourist Myth: The Look

Supposedly, “tourists” have a look and “travelers” don’t. “Tourists” wear comfortable shoes, fanny packs, and they dress like they do at home. “Travelers” dress like locals–which is totally bogus. As a white girl living in Japan for three months in 2006, it wouldn’t have mattered what I wore–everyone knew I wasn’t a local! They all knew I was a tourist! I wear my tennis shoes when I travel because they are comfortable and supportive. I don’t wear a fanny pack, but I do have a belt that I sometimes wear under my clothes that holds my hotel key, ID, credit card, cash, and/or phone when I go for a run in a new place. If I’m going to the Middle East or Southeast Asia, I make sure to bring clothing that’s appropriate, but guess what…

I still look like a “tourist.”

Trying to blend in at a mosque!

In short, if you fancy yourself a “traveler,” please don’t look down your nose at the “tourists” around you. They might just have an enjoyment advantage over you. If you’re undeniably a “tourist,” keep it up! Wear your walking shoes, get excited about your destination, and keep traveling!

So what do you think? Are tourists and travelers two different breeds? Or are they one in the same with only an attitude difference?

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5 thoughts on “Why It’s OK to Be a Tourist

  1. I totally agree! Love this post…I’m a stereotypical tourist (the backpack, seeing all the sights), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. I’m always asking for something “local”: I didn’t come to your home to experience something I take for granted in Nashville!

    I’m Beijing, our first night my classmates and I ate Pizza Hut, as an example.

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