I’ve thought about it myself, and I’ve read debates online. Why do traveler’s seem to be looked up to and tourists seen as a nuance to the world? Why such a harsh difference, and does it even matter if you’re consider a traveler or tourist?

I have been caught in this outlook before and have to remind myself to think otherwise, which I believe is a more peaceful way to look at things. I thought that traveler’s where these extraordinary individuals who did as they pleased, partied without worrying where they were going to sleep the next night, changed plans in a heartbeat, and were pretty much just relaxed people going with the flow. Tourists on the other hand were the annoying ones who walked in front of you while you were trying to take a picture, who crowded the streets you lived on, and who ruined your vacation with their obnoxious stereotype being ever present.

Tourists are seen as people who throw cash around like it’s endless, buying souvenirs and paying over the top prices at restaurants in tourist areas. They don’t venture out past the area labeled as a tourist area, they feel safe and like the idea of going back to a hotel room having a bed made for you with air conditioning blasting. They’re oblivious of the people around them because they’re only there to see the sights. Enjoying and embracing the culture is not usually at the top of their lists, and they thrive in their comfort having no worries because they’re on vacation.

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Spending the day acting like a child at Universal Studios, Orlando

A traveler is up for adventure, stretches every dollar they can and doesn’t mind getting a bit dirty. Clothes are worn repeatedly, they try to blend in and immerse themselves in the local culture. Meeting people is all a part of the daily routine and flights are often booked based on the cheapest location. A taxi ride is rare as public transportation is often the first choice. Long-term travel is outweighed over a week long all-inclusive trip, and happiness is found in the people, not the souvenirs.

I dreaded the thought of someone ever looking at me as a tourist and desperately clung to the idea that I was somehow a traveler. I bought a backpack and ditched the suitcase, sewed on my country’s flag and booked a one way ticket. I was a traveler now right? But could I actually categorize myself as a traveler when I was on a group tour, the most dreaded of all tourists?

I have no idea. But I liked to think of myself as a traveler. I set out using the mindset that I thought a traveler would have. I had a one way ticket, and booked trips to new cities as I traveled through Europe. I made spur of the moment decisions, slept in rooms with total strangers, and booked hostels through word mouth.

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Colosseum, Rome

I suddenly felt that I was superior to tourists and that my way of travel was better. Not long after returning home from Europe I realized how skewed this outlook was. How could I possibly think of myself as someone who was superior to someone else who enjoyed to travel? To travel the world is my dream and I was placing myself a rank higher than those who also had the same dream – to see somewhere new, to escape their everyday lives.

It occurred to me that labelling someone as a traveler or a tourist is just causing a negative and unneeded boarder. It’s creating two separate ways of travel when really we should all be embracing our desire to explore, to learn, to eat foreign foods, and see the opportunities in a new land.

My negative view of a tourist had to stop. I was no better than anyone. I needed to embrace our similar love of travel and encourage other’s to see something new in the world. Travel has the ability to impact our lives in a great way and I shouldn’t be discouraging other’s from experiencing what has personally changed my life.

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Drinks on Paradise Beach, Mykonos

So in the end I don’t think the difference between a traveler or a tourist matters. We’re all traveling, though it may not be for the same reasons, we’re still doing the same thing. Whether we’re oblivious to the culture, to nature, or choose to spend our money on different things our passion for travel is what brings us all to the same place. We should all be able to connect on some level and set our differences aside.

Do you think there is a difference between a traveler and a tourist? Does one or the other annoy you, or does it even make a difference?

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