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How to know if you’re a traveller or a tourist

travellers vs. tourists

Tourists vs. travellers – two words that used to mean the same thing, but have taken on two very different identities in recent years. So where do you fall? Time to find out…

Experiencing vs. Seeing

If you’re a tourist, we can probably tell by your Instagram feed – most likely it’s full of selfies in front of the iconic sites, and little else. Chances are your trip needs little explanation and your photos say it all; you saw all the things and photographed them as well.

Travellers have stories, adventures, revelations and feelings that just can’t be conveyed in a photo or two, post photos that warrant a praise-hands emoji comment, and will be able to talk your ear off when they return.

Sure, you saw the Eiffel Tower, but did you climb it? Did you pack a picnic lunch to eat in the Champ de Mars, and marvel at its gorgeous iron curves and angles? That’s the difference.

travellers vs. tourists

Blending in vs. Standing out

If you dress and act like a tourist, you’re probably gonna get treated like one, plain and simple. The only result of sticking out like a sore thumb is attracting attention, and when you’re abroad that’s not always a good thing.

That v-neck tank that you love so dearly may look great in your vacation photos, but if it’s insensitive to the cultural norms of your destination it’s a bad choice.

Trying to blend in as a traveller will generally garner you more respect and authenticity from the locals. Tourists are a bull’s eye for being overcharged, pickpocketed and mislead.

Tasting vs. Eating

If your culinary experiences start and end at the hotel buffet, you’re missing out on a true traveller’s experience. A tourist focuses more on practicality, price, and popularity when it comes to food, and to say they’re missing out is an understatement.

Sure, you’ve gotta try pasteis de nata in Portugal, but venture out of the Starbucks and taste test every bakery until you’ve found the best one in town. Eating should be more than a necessary evil when you’re abroad, and tasting the authentic dishes on offer will only enhance your experience.

Eating - traveller vs. tourist

Taking risks vs. playing it safe

Guidebooks can only take you so far. If you plan your whole vacation based on the recommendations of others, are you even really travelling, or are you just reliving someone else’s trip and recreating someone else’s memories?

A traveller understands that some risks are worth taking; a tourist checks the suggested boxes and comes home without ever experiencing the adrenaline rush of leaving your comfort zone behind.

Trinkets vs. Treasures

Sure, collecting shot glasses is fun, but what do they really tell you about the places you’ve been? Souvenir shops are often targeted at tourists, searching for a cute momento that was most likely made in China and will collect dust for the duration of its life.

Travellers focus more on taking home memories and authentic treasures that are unique to the area. We’ll take a cozy alpaca sweater over a cheesy Peru t-shirt any day.

Souvenirs - traveller vs. tourist

Wandering vs. following

So much of the joy of travelling is found in the unknown, and if you’re constantly standing in a queue, you’re wasting so much time. Just because everyone else in cargo shorts in standing in line all afternoon doesn’t mean you should.

Direct routes and queuing in line are go-tos for tourists. Travellers get lost; not in a panic when their map flies away, but intentionally, while they duck down the side streets to discover the Gelato shops the locals rave about.

So, are you a traveller or a tourist? Does it differ based on the vacation or situation? Let us know in the comments!