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Since I’ve emerged into the travel blogging world, I’ve noticed just how much the traveller versus tourist debate is talked about. In fact, this debate is actually decades old!

I was reading Bridget Jones’s Diary recently and Helen Fielding even mentioned it in there (written in 1998):

“Non-v.g. start but still excited re: Thailand trip. Sharon and I are going to be travellers rather than tourists i.e. not stay in hermetically sealed tourist enclaves but really experience the religion and culture.”

But something doesn’t quite sit right with me about all of this…

Traveller vs Tourist Debate

Traveller vs Tourist Debate: Why Must We Choose?

However you look at it, there always seems to be some kind of snobbery towards one group or the other.

Tourists look at worldly travellers and sneer at their desire to “get off the beaten track”, whilst travellers sneer right back at tourists for their wishes on seeing famous landmarks during their travels.

Yes, I know, I know. Marketers and bloggers like me are perpetuating this debate. But there’s one solid reason why I need to add my two cents.

It’s to help combat the snobbery I’ve seen and witnessed first-hand. It’s almost like a lot of people think that they’re better than others just because they travel a certain way.

God forbid I visit Paris for the first time and try and see the Eiffel Tower! Admitting this within some circles, the types of comments and looks I get, I may as well be telling them I’m off to the moon in aid of “finding myself”.

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I just don’t understand this desire to put others down just based on the way they travel.

Why is it that some people don’t want to see iconic landmarks plastered across postcards, Instagram and our parents’ photo albums? And on that note, what were our parents or grandparents? Were they travellers or tourists?

When people first took to the seas (and skies) to explore new places, they would have loved to have seen the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and Marrakesh medina! Back in the day, these people would have been known simply as travellers. They wouldn’t have been looked down upon just because they decided to visit the famous landmarks. They would have been admired for simply getting out and seeing the world!

Personally, I think different places call for different kinds of travel.

When I went to Paris for the first time, the Eiffel Tower was at the top of my list! Surely there wasn’t anything wrong with that? Likewise, when my partner and I went to New York City, Times Square was right up there on our bucket list! But this doesn’t mean we won’t also do “less-touristy” things in these places as well.

In the future, when I decide to head out to Japan, I know I’d want to see the landmarks. But I expect I’d also like to see Japan from a different perspective too… even if that means entering a region where the locals don’t speak any English!

Visiting Japan as a tourist

I don’t see anything wrong with travelling in whichever way you like, or tailoring it to the place you plan on travelling to.

So I ask you this…

Why Do We Need To Label Ourselves?

It’s like when people tell us to narrow down the niche of our blog to just couples travel or only dog friendly travel. Why would we want to limit ourselves?

I feel the same way about travel.

Why would we want to limit the way we travel or even where we go?

I cannot for the life of me think what we would have to gain from this. And what would you gain? You would be treated (or is it mistreated?) to a series of blog posts we don’t really care about, you don’t really care about and those that lack any kind of originality or passion behind them.

And yet… leave us to travel the way we damn well want to, and leave us to write about what the heck we damn well feel like and you may actually be lucky enough not to fall asleep whilst hearing about our travel stories and experiences.

So, Traveller X, so Tourist Y – shut the f**k up. No one cares whether you want to visit every famous landmark on this planet, or whether you would prefer to live like locals and hide from tourism… the thing that made it possible to travel to that country in the first place I might add.

Just stop with the labels. Stop telling everyone else how to travel. And just be, okay?

Traveller vs Tourist Debate: #rantover

Okay, so I’m going to ask you what your thoughts on the traveller vs tourist debate are? Do you have a side you’re on? Or are you on the fence like me? Let me know in the comments…

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Traveller vs Tourist Debate: Why Must We Choose?

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6 thoughts on “Traveller vs Tourist Debate: Why Must We Choose?

  1. Ethan says:

    well written

    1. Thanks very much Ethan! I’m glad you liked the post!

  2. Chloe says:

    This is such a good point! I went to China over the summer and spent the first four weeks doing a lanugauge course in Shijiazhuang. When I was there I lived with a host family and experienced an authentic Chinese lifestyle which was an amazing experience which I absolutely loved and learnt so much from being immersed in the culture. However after this I spent 10 days in Beijing doing all the ‘tourist’ stuff like visiting famous temples and the Forbidden City which I enjoyed equally as much. I feel that both experiences contributed to what I’d learnt during my trip, and value them both. I’d got to experience China both as a ‘traveller’ and a ‘tourist’ all in one trip whilst still being me, so I agree labels mean nothing. Tourists love to travel and travellers love to tourist! Thanks for a great post I really enjoyed reading and sorry for the essay-like comment!
    I’ve written about my experiences in China over at my blog if you’re interested in reading
    Chloe x

    1. Thanks for commenting Chloe! I’m so glad someone else out there agrees. It sounds like you had a great time in China, and got to experience both sides of it. (I’m very jealous of your trip and will definitely be reading your blogs about it!) Where are you off to next? 🙂

  3. Vipula says:

    This is such an annoying debate. Infact, I think even travel ‘off-the-beaten-track’ is something of a farce. One goes to a ‘less-touristy’ place, puts pictures on social media and bam! In 6 months that place is not ‘less-touristy’ any more. And people need to remember the landmarks are famous because they represent some sort of achievement of the human race – architectural, historic, artistic etc. They became touristy for a reason! Also, I think travel is not about what you do but at the pace you travel – so whether you are into minute-by-minute planning or prefer to do one thing a day. And either way is fine – whatever works for you.
    However, I am a snob when it comes to insensitive or plain dumb travelers. For instance, when people take selfies in Chernobyl or Auschwitz. Or when people go on a picture clicking frenzy in museums ( which makes no sense, coz you are probably going to find a higher res pic of that painting on wiki) and have no clue about the artist. If you are clueless about a place, and just chasing a new trendy spot then I am sorry but am judging you! Ha ha!

    1. Hi Vipula,

      Thanks so much for your comment, which I loved by the way!

      I’m so glad there’s others like you who agree that we can each travel how we want to. You’re right about the pace of travel; what works for some won’t work for others. For example, my partner and I have limited vacation days from work so we prefer shorter but more frequent trips, whereas others prefer to travel long-term.

      But like you’ve said… there’s nothing wrong with either. Do what you want, be who you want to be and just enjoy it… and hey, who’s even bothered about what Joe Bloggs across the road is doing anyway? Surely, we should only be concerned with ourselves?

      Although yes… if you are going to be insensitive in a place (Chernobyl and Auschwitz sadly being two good examples), then I will also be quietly judging (… and probably tutting).

      Thanks again for getting involved with this annoying yet interesting debate 😉

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