Why It’s Okay to Be a Tourist

Updated June 1, 2020.

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 read more and more articles that attempt to “tourist shame” the less experienced travelers or those who opt for comfortable walking shoes instead of the “cool” shoes that “travelers” wear.

Are you a tourist? Or are you a traveler? The difference might surprise you.

Honey, there’s no way i’m wearing heels on cobblestones on Nantucket!
Why you should always wear comfortable shoes:
The Ultimate Guide to Your Travels and Your Feet

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 short list of reasons why:

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

It’s true! It 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 in the Baltics! 
Just in case you need this: A Beginner’s Guide to Air Travel

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! 
Keep reading: Icons of London

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 Sometimes your map is out of date, sometimes you go the wrong direction on the public transportation system, and sometimes you ask a simple question that locals don’t understand (“Where’s the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. 
Pro Tip: How to Read a Map

4. Tourists Have a “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 running shoes everywhere 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!
Keep Reading: How to Respectfully Visit 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!

For all my strong opinions, take a look at my Travel Tips Page and my dedicated Solo Travel Page, too!

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6 responses to “Why It’s Okay to Be a Tourist”

  1. […] are a fact of travel. They prey on travelers and tourists alike, and while they may work in teams or on their own, it only takes one pickpocket experience to […]

  2. 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.

    1. That is awesome! 🙌 The sites are “touristy” for a reason, I always say!

  3. Jared Hassell Avatar

    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.

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      Yeah, I try to avoid chains as much as possible, especially American ones!

  4. […] tell you all their stories. (Sometimes over and over again!) I’ve long held the opinion that travelers and tourists are one in the same, while others poo-poo “tourists” like they’re the ancient scum on the underbelly […]

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