Tourist -vs- Traveler

St. Augustine’s theory is the greatest realization: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” After stumbling across 34 countries and over 150 cities, I still feel like I’m on chapter two. And along the way I’ve come in contact with two types of people: Tourists and Travelers.

I distinguish the tourist inside an air-conditioned coach bus. A printed itinerary of the day’s events in one hand and a sightseeing guide (provided by the hotel) in the other. The tourist expects locals to respond in English. You can find these tourists with wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses standing outside the souvenir shop- in most cases, buying things for more than they’re worth. Tourists always tip and often shudder with excitement at the sight of familiar chain-food restaurants.  

As for the traveler, there are no scheduled pick ups, no pre-printed itineraries, and the thought of eating at familiar chain-food restaurants is repulsing. A traveler knows the name of at least two cheap guidebooks and lounge at wi-fi hotspot coffee shops religiously. A traveler knows how to say common courtesy phrases- “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” “thank you”- in the native language. A traveler can be found sitting on a bench, a rock, or the earth’s floor observing locals engage in daily routines. The traveler will sneak out his/her camera, snap a picture of children running across the street, and place it back into their rugged backpack or hand-woven strap bag. A traveler never admits to anything being cheap. They negotiate until it’s cheaper.

Traveling for a traveler broadens the mind and exposes ones’ soul to the core of this beautiful universe- whereas, traveling for tourists merely lengthens a conversation with neighbors. In all fairness neither is better than the other. It’s a mentality. A way of thinking. I enjoy the thrills of wondering aimlessly in a foreign city, but yet I’m never lost. I relish in adapting to culture, food, customs, and languages- but most importantly, I thrive on sharing these experiences to remind others of this resplendent life existing beyond a text book. I am a traveler. Which one are you?? - tnoely