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We're All Tourists

I often come across pieces written by 'travellers', who are quick to distance themselves from mere 'tourists'. As if being a tourist is something shameful.

For example, there seem to be no end of scathing commentaries out there along the lines of... I went to Place X (during Time Y), but it was full of tourists.

Or articles that claim to have the secret of... How not to travel like a tourist.







What self-proclaimed travellers seem to miss, is that once we leave home, we're all tourists. Whether or not we want to accept it. Whether or not we give ourselves a cooler name. After all, foreign countries issue Tourist Visas, not Traveller Visas.

If you don't like crowds, by all means avoid Place X (during Time Y). But if you do go there, don't fool yourself into believing you're somehow superior to all the bloomin' tourists spoiling your visit. Because I can guarantee, they're thinking exactly the same about you, no matter what you call yourself. What's more, I'm fairly sure the locals of Place X don't see any difference between tourists and travellers, especially during Time Y.







Who decides whether you're a traveller or a tourist, anyway?  Exactly where is the dividing line, and why does it seem to matter so much?

I mean, how far off the beaten track do you have to venture before you stop being a tourist? I wonder, are tourists banned from hiking the remote wilderness of Alaska? And conversely, must travellers shun famous, crowded locations, like the Taj Mahal and Manhattan?

If your budget prevents you staying at a fancy resort, does that mean you're a traveller by default? If you spend every waking moment immersing yourself in the native culture and cuisine, meeting local people and learning their language, yet return to a nice hotel to sleep, do you lose your traveller kudos?







And here's something else to consider... according to the dictionary, a traveller is simply 'a person who is travelling or who often travels'. A tourist, on the other hand, is 'a person who is travelling or visiting a place for pleasure'.

I don't know about you, but those last two words seem pretty important to me! Regardless of how often you travel. Whether you're a traveller or a tourist, a business person or an exchange student.

So, forget all the labels and stop trying to be cool. As scandalous as it may be, I for one consider myself traveller and tourist. Surely, the important thing is to embrace your inner wanderlust and explore this wonderful world of ours any way you want to!


An advertising billboard for a well-known travel company (identity removed). I would respond, surely Travellers need maps, too. And Tourists wouldn't leave home if they weren't curious.


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