A Note On The 'Traveler Vs. Tourist' Attitude

Tourist taking photos.
Tourist taking photos.

If you enjoy reading travel blogs, you’ve most likely come across articles asking you to take a good, long look at yourself and determine whether you are a traveler or just a mere tourist. These blogs use the word tourist as if it’s an ugly word, worthy of their ridicule. They talk about how they are somehow better than other people because they have managed to travel to some locale so remote and off the beaten path that most people haven’t even heard of it. They scoff at Hawaiian shirt-clad tourists sipping on cocktails at an all inclusive resort somewhere and declare with an admonishing tone that, “those people aren’t doing it right, they aren’t real travelers like me”.

I’ll admit that there was a time in my life, in my early 20s, where I fell victim to the whole “Traveler vs. Tourist” mentality, too. I once wondered why anybody would want to travel somewhere only to go on a guided tour, or to sit at a resort and not get out there and explore the real place. I will say that to this day, getting out and exploring and immersing myself in my destination is what I enjoy above all else. However, as I’ve gotten older and have traveled quite a lot more, I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely wrong to feel that there is any one way to travel.

Every person has their own unique idea of what is enjoyable in this life. What I might consider to be a boring waste of my time might be something somebody else thinks is wonderful. There’s nothing wrong with sipping cocktails at an all inclusive resort. For some people who have stressful lives, it might be just the recharge they need to feel refreshed. I might not particularly like guided tours due to them feeling restrictive, but to another person, it might be a wonderful opportunity for them to meet new friends and learn about the culture and history of the area.

When did we stop thinking of travel as a fun way to enjoy life, and instead start thinking of it as something to be used to “one up” others? Travel isn’t about how many pins you have in your travel map, or whether or not your travel destinations are more remote or more “hardcore” than others. It’s about having fun and enjoying life. It’s about creating memories. It’s about relaxing, experiencing new things, seeing the world, and creating a life that you will not look back upon with regret. And that means different things to different people.

With that in mind, I would like to share the below photo from when I was about 14 years old and had just returned from a Christmas vacation with my family to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun. Look how happy I was. Look at my silly hair. Look at those pants I’m wearing. Was I worried about how “cool” traveling made me back then? No. I was just a kid who was enjoying life.

It’s time we all stopped talking about whether we’re a “traveler” or a “tourist” and instead started talking about how amazing life can be. No matter which arbitrary category you fall into, your travels should be about having fun.

So, get out there and have some fun. Do something that makes you happy. That’s the only thing that matters.

You can read more works by Heather Hopkins on her blog.

Returned from Cancun
Returned from Cancun
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