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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tourists versus travellers: refreshing takes on the (often ho-hum) debate

"Tourists expect toilet paper — travelers carry their own (with the carton roll removed and pressed flat)," responds Craig from TravelVice to Eric's question to travel bloggers (including myself) at TravelBlogs.com: what is the difference between tourists and travellers? Eric's motivation? "It’s one of those quintessential questions among travellers (or should I say tourists?), popping up like a stubborn weed on forums and blogs," he says. Pam Mandel from Nerd's Eye View believes there's no difference and the question should die: "In a semantic dispute, one could argue that a traveler is anyone engaged in the act of travel. I traveled to the post office yesterday, downtown to dine with friends. More semantics: A tourist is anyone who is not a local or, alternatively, one who is in a location to tour, to see the sites. The underpinnings of this question are clear, though, to anyone who reads about travel." Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere puts it more bluntly: "It is a distinction used by pretentious people to make themselves feel superior to others. To the locals, no matter how long you’ve been traveling or whatever your mindset is, you are still a tourist." I don't buy into the argument either. The ‘grand tourists’ after all were some of the most adventurous travellers, spending years on the road and months in one place, learning languages and local art forms. I'm pleased to see so many other bloggers agree. I love this response from Ant Stone of Trail of Ants: "If you gave a tourist £500, they will visit one place, for one week while trying to emulate the insight of the traveller. If you gave a traveller £500, they will visit five places over five weeks while trying to avoid the habits of a tourist. When they return home, the traveller will say “the tourist blew their money” while the tourist will claim “the traveller blew their time”. Personally, I think travellers who snub their noses at tourists are short-sighted. I’ve met hundreds of so-called travellers over the past nineteen months who say such things as “I’m not going there, it’s so touristy!”... ask them what they’ve done with their day. Museum. Monument. Market. McDonalds. There was me thinking they’d been laying grain out to dry after digging a new rice paddy." For me, what's more important than how we label ourselves, or others, is how we travel, how we experience a place and its people, how much we get out of that experience, and for some of us, how much we give back. I see much more value in focusing less on our own identities and more on the world and people around us. Make sure you drop by Eric's and check out some of the other responses.

10 comments:

Gary Arndt said...

Here is the real difference:

A traveler knows that the photo for this article was taken on the Great Ocean Road, most probably at the Twelve Apostles :)

Lara Dunston said...

Yes, but the tourist will probably know exactly how many Apostles are left, and why, and if they don't they can always check their video tape of the tour guide's commentary! ;)

previously.bitten said...

truth be told, i've been a "tourist" and a "traveler." It all comes down to funds, and time constraints. neither is better than the other, in my opinion.

meesposito said...

The word "tourist" is also used at times to refer to someone who travels to another place and behaves badly there, which is why I feel somewhat uncomfortable if someone refers to me that way. However, if being a tourist just means someone who travels to another place to take in the sites or just get a little rest and relaxation, I have definitely been that person on more than one occasion. I have also taken trips for the purposes of research and squeeze in some touring here and there, so I guess in that case I was both a researcher and a tourist.
I recall that on one trip I met a group of students on a beautiful Caribbean island who were there to study the coral reefs and had virtually no time to relax at all, which I thought was excessive on the other side of the spectrum.

Lara Dunston said...

Hello Previously Bitten - I totally agree with you! Thanks for commenting!

Hi Michael - it's such a shame that the label 'tourist' has become a derogatory one, isn't it? But I think the debate on Eric's site showed that many travel bloggers think that's a pretentious attitude and are over it. I think we're all both tourist and traveller on occasion, and both are something to be proud of because it means we're seeing our world and opening our minds in the process. Thanks for dropping by!

Ant Stone said...

The debate rages on. Great site Lara, I've tried to subscribe to your feed but it says the last update was Jan 2nd?

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Ant - thanks! Much appreciated.

Re your efforts to subscribe, I'll have to investigate - I can see my subscribers slowly creeping up by the day, but nobody has reported problems before... but having said that Google is requiring Feedburner users to shift over to Google by Feb 28, so I will have had to re-direct Feedburner subscribers then anyway, so perhaps wait until I make the shift. I'm just waiting to see if my new Google Analytics account picks up all my subscribers and stats before doing that. I'll pop up a post when I've made the move.

Tulum Tours said...

i never expected such an explanation for a tourist and a traveler. Great.

Goan said...

I also agree with you.

Lara Dunston said...

Thanks!

Love Tulum - will check out your site.

Haven't been to Goa yet - but would like to.