I am completely sick of the tomfoolery that goes on around with “Are you a tourist or a traveller?
“Traveller vs Tourist – which is better?“
God how we love our labels.
Personally I feel like I’m a ‘3a Traveller with a Wild Card of 12% Tourist’.
These words have stopped being something that genuinely, and innocently, describes those who go to a place different from where they live.
It’s now a label just like any designer stamp.
We separate ourselves into these little boxes. Traveller vs Tourist. “In Training” vs “Gym User”. Me Vs THE WORLD!
Why? So we can feel better about ourselves.
It is exactly the same as the complaint – “I’M stuck in traffic, MY day is ruined, why cant YOU ALL just go home!?” (Disclaimer: I have definitely shouted similar things inside my helmet. I’m not immune).
No you’re not in traffic, you are traffic.
Just like at the Louvre, “all these bloody tourists” are not spoiling your visit, you are crowd as well.
What is Traveller Vs Tourist?
The big debate goes: well a tourist snaps a selfie and moves on without reading the label, while a traveller reads and educates themselves before hand and soaks up all the knowledge and culture and gritty local (yet still some how elite) life while they’re there.
That’s right. I’m lookin’ at you.
I had a great conversation with a guy at a cafe in Athens. He was fantastically pretentious, we got on like a house on fire. He proclaimed, proudly and loudly, that he was a traveller – not like these plebs *gesturing to the crowds*. Normally I wouldn’t engage with the tourist vs traveller bollocks, but he had been nice enough to let me sit at his table in a packed cafe – I couldn’t leave now, my coffee and cake had arrived.
We talked about how nice it is to travel somewhere you feel you know the history of, more than just the guidebook 50 word introductions.
We then had a small disagreement.
He was certain, to the point of raising his voice, that the big temple thing on the hill was called the Acropolis.
I had mentioned my intention of visiting the Parthenon. He chuckled, and said “I think you mean the Acropolis – the Parthenon is in Rome”
He was almost jumping up and down he was so adamant. He then asked said, “You’re only here for a few days, you’re a tourist, what would you know?”
Oh, shouty boy, sit down.
I replied that I would know because I had been studying Classical Greek History for nearly 6 years, was in the process of completing my Masters in Classics and Ancient History, and that I was in town training with the British Archaeological School. I’m actually staying here for two weeks and this is my fifth or sixth visit to Athens.
Oh and by the way, *I* think you mean the PANtheon is in Rome, the big hill is the Acropolis and the temple is the PARthenon.
This is just my favourite personal experience of the “traveller” being just as, or more, clueless than the “tourists” they chastise.
The other argument, travellers go slowly and for a long time, they don’t try to see everything in two weeks a year.
Well that is lovely for you, the full time vagabond, not everyone has the privileges we do.
I have spent months at a time travelling, one time I left home for six weeks in June and didn’t come back until the end of October. However, I have also taken organised tours, I just went to Paris for 6 days.
Oh no! Blurred definitions, what is thing that doesn’t fit my judgemental views!?
Traveller vs Tourist …. vs Jerk?
See this is where my third option comes in, maybe, your’re not a traveller or a tourist.
Maybe, your just a jerk.
Do you stand in line and complain loudly to whoever will listen about how you hate standing in line?
Do you go to places that speak a different language and make no effort to be polite, choosing instead to yell at waiters in your mother tongue and then leave angry reviews that the wait staff is useless?
Do you touch ancient artefacts with your oily fingers, or worse carve your name into ancient stone? (all skin is oily I don’t care if your hands are clean DON’T TOUCH THE ARTEFACTS)
Do you, by any chance, shove your way to the front of the crowd, take a selfie then proclaim “well that was shit, let’s go” (an actual quote from an actual human in the British museum, in front of the Rosetta Stone)
Do you disregard other people in order to get things done more quickly so you can go back to the hotel where there’s WiFi so you can wax lyrical about the amaaaaaahzing time you had in Paris (when in fact you had been complaining to me only seconds before your Instagram story update, about how much you hate the French. How proud you are that you took all your photos in one day, so now you don’t have to go out again. Three days in Paris is way too long- and do I know a restaurant that delivers?)
Do you accost strangers while travelling and demand they engage in the Traveller Vs Tourist with you?
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There are many stereotypical “tourist” things that “travellers” do. Yes, I prefer the word traveller, I use it on the blog and in my products, not because I’m better than “tourists”, but because I like the way it sounds – I’m a writer (how pretentious, I know).
Want to be a tourist? Transport yourself to a place which is not the place you live, see and or do stuff.
Want to be a traveller? Transport yourself to a place which is not the place you live, see and or do stuff.
Want to be a massive jerk? Transport yourself to a place which is not the place you live, see and or do stuff, then tell everyone about how much better you are than them.
Ok, I love me some satire but this is also serious.
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
I don’t care if you’re a traveller or a tourist, or a holiday maker, or a vacationer, or #girlsontour.
I care about whether you are respectful to the locals, you’re a guest in their house so behave like it. I care about how you treat other people who are also visiting the place that is not where they live. I care about whether or not you are an unlikable and narcissistic jerk who derives pleasure from belittling others.
So, let’s stop obsessing about tourist vs traveller and maybe start focusing on being better humans.
There you go, my pretentious rant is over; be excellent to one another – and travel.
(oh and share this rant with your friends, enemies, and that guy who gave you his email that time)
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