The stark differences between travelers and tourists: Which One are You?

Hey guys,

It occurred to me how many different ways people like to travel, but for the purpose of this article I’m categorizing them within two main categories:

Travelers and tourists.

Both travelers and tourists love visiting foreign countries, however, their approach to traveling widely differs and there are distinct qualities that separate the two.

Every traveler is a tourist, but not every tourist is a traveler.

See if you identify closer with one of the two as you read!

Travel Itinerary

A tourist visits a country for a week or two on vacation.
A traveler visits a country for an extended period of time.

Tourists book their vacation a year or two in advance to get away from the everyday hustle. They want a holiday escape to unwind, relax, and take time off from their responsibilities.

Travelers go to a country on an expedition of sorts where the purpose is to learn something about the world. They want to stay for as long as possible or until they achieve what they originally set out to do.

Packing, luggage & belongings

A tourist packs 2-3 suitcases.
A traveler packs just what he needs.

Tourists ALWAYS overpack. They think they need way more than they actually do. Instead of packing for 1-2 weeks, they pack a few months supply of clothes, accessories, and personal items. They end up only using a fraction of what they packed.

Travelers understand the less the better. They know overpacking means excess weight that becomes a hassle to bring around everywhere. Less stuff means less worry and more attention towards the trip itself.

Lodging & Accommodation

A tourist stays in resorts and hotels.
A traveler hostel-hops, couch-surfs , and sets up camp.

Tourists value comfort, convenience, and cost. Most of them want a private, up-scale, fully accommodated room with professional service a phone call away. They want a king-sized bed, a main lobby with a rec centre, swimming pool and a downstairs restaurant & bar. The price needs be fair and reflect high value for the amount payed.

Travelers value experience, immersion, and cost. They want to be surrounded by like-minded people who share their stories and insight. Many of them lean towards hostels since they’re economic and provide a central hub for other travelers with similar objectives. If a local invites a traveler to stay with them for a few nights, the opportunity for immersion far out weighs the comfort and convienence of a standard hotel/hostel room.

To-do list

A tourist joins tour groups and purchases sight-seeing packages from travel agencies.
A traveler meets people who show him around and give recommendations for free.

Tourists rigorously plan and schedule their 7-14 day vacation. They want every hour of every day to be something to do and somewhere to go. Travel agencies mark their calenders and suggest everything from where to eat, to places you should and should not go.

Travelers don’t want a pre-decided plan. They act spontaneously and instinctively. Most of the time they meet friendly locals who want to show them around their city. Instead of adhering to a rigid plan, they have a general idea of what they want to do and where they want to go for the day.

Where to go and what to see

A tourist wants to see the main attractions.
A traveler wants to see through the locals’ eyes.

If you’ve ever been to a popular major city like Paris, or Rome I’m sure you’ve seen the groups of tourists with selfie-sticks taking photos in front of the historical monuments.

Tourists want to see historical significance as long as they’re able to share it with their friends and family on social media.

Travelers and tourists alike want to visit world famous monuments, buildings, and museums, but the only difference is a traveler tends to see the main attractions as a “tourist trap.” Travelers want to experience Paris and Rome as a local does, not as the tourism industry advertises.

Language learning

A tourist doesn’t spend time learning a new language.
A traveler finds it important to communicate with the locals.

A tourist at most remembers a few words from foreign language class. Maybe they use important words and phrases like, “please, thank you, & where is the bathroom?” Beyond that, the places they go are most likely accustomed to English-speaking tourists so there’s no need (or want) to actually learn the local language.

Travelers, on the other hand, make a genuine effort to speak and learn the language of the country they’re visiting. They want to talk with a native speaker who doesn’t speak English as a second language. A travelers goal is to be able to order food, ask for directions, make small talk, and immerse themselves as much as possible in the culture.

Comfort and Novelty

A tourist acts within their comfort zone.
A traveler seeks to explore the unknown.

To a certain extent, when a tourist visits a foreign country it is acting outside of their comfort zone. For the most part, however, a tourist adheres to the pre-planned itinerary and doesn’t sway too off schedule. Tourists tend to stick with what’s familiar and not too far off from their cultural norm.

When a traveler visits a foreign country, he/she wants to experience something other. A lot of times they’re on personal quests of self discovery, meaning, and existential order. Travelers seek adventure and discovery. They want to experience all the ups and downs that comes with venturing outside of their comfort zone.

Blending in and Standing out

A tourist always walks looking up, down & around.
A traveler walks with direciton.

A tourist stands out.
A traveler blends in.

You can spot a tourist right away. They stand out like neon colors. The tourist starter pack includes a camera, oversized backpack, souvenir shirt, selfie stick, and a local map.

Travelers try to blend in as much as possible. They want to look and act like the local population to not draw unnecessary attention.

Bonus*
A tourist walks into an Italian cafe and makes sure to order Italian coffee and Italian cookies
A traveler walks into an Italian cafe and orders coffee and cookies.


So, which one are you, traveler or tourist? Comment below & and Share with your friends!

Read my other posts!

6 Principles For Life and Travel

If you love traveling and your enthusiasm for foreign cultures prompts you to buy a one-way ticket, chances are you follow a certain set of unspoken rules that I call: The Avid Traveler’s Code of Conduct

6 Principles For Life and Travel

If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”

Anthony Bourdain

If you love traveling and your enthusiasm for foreign cultures prompts you to buy a one-way ticket, chances are you follow a certain set of unspoken rules that I call,

The Avid Traveler’s Code of Conduct.

Besides governmental laws that citizens and tourists alike must follow, there isn’t a guide to how one should conduct themselves in a foreign place.

During my South American trip to Colombia I met this well-spoken hostel owner who told me that people who travel without a code of some sort tend to act like the stereotypical American tourist who, oblivious to their selfish behaviour, imposes their arrogance, ignorance and travel-magazine mentality upon the world.

None of us want to be that tourist.

Think of the following six rules I list in this article as a guide to cultural immersion.

Most of you reading this most likely already follow these rules intuitively and for those of you who don’t, I encourage you to adapt these principles before deciding to travel!

Without further ado, here are my six rules to the avid traveler’s code of conduct.

Treat others how you want to be treated

  1. Showing respect goes without saying. When you show up at someones home or, more broadly, a foreign place, your first responsibility is to be respectful.

    Right back to the basics of social interaction: Always say please and thank you.

    This also means following the established rules, guidelines, and cultural norms. As long as your heart is in the right place giving respect is second nature.

    We first saw this rule posted in big, vibrant colors on our elementary school’s classroom wall. It applies everywhere in life and especially as you travel to unknown places as a visitor.

    Be considerate. Don’t touch what’s not yours. Use your manners. Ask if you’re not certain.

    Simple enough, right?

Observe, Listen, Adapt

2. The second code of conduct for an avid traveler is to adapt to your host’s lifestyle and traditions.

This doesn’t mean to blindly follow, but instead to respect and understand a different and possibly new point of view.

This could mean waking up at the general time of whats expected, eating meals at a certain time or in a particular fashion, and following the “flow” of the household schedule.

Maybe your host practices prayer before and after a meal. Even if you aren’t religious it’s your responsibility as a guest to take part. To certain people, it would be considered highly disrespectful for someone to not follow tradition, especially in a foreign culture.

Observe how people go about their routines, practices, and traditions. Listen to what locals tell you about their beliefs and customs. And adapt to the new information you gain to make your travel experience richer and smoother.

Usually adapting simply means leaving behind your preconceived notions, which brings us to code number three:

Leave behind pre-conceived ideas about the world

3. Pre- conceived ideas and beliefs can be detrimental to your travel experience. They limit the depth of exploration.

If you go somewhere stubbornly set in your ways the chances are your trip will be limited to what you already know and are comfortable with; In that case, you should’ve stayed home in the first place.

Traveling requires an open mind. Only then can you thoroughly explore your surroundings.

Admittedly, most people who decide to travel are pre-supposed to alternative ways of being. In the light of new information open and receptive people often identify their own pre-conceived notions they weren’t aware of.

To expose and then correct a biased idea/belief is one of the many great virtues of traveling. Mark Twain is famously noted for writing,

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Be genuinely curious

4. Tagging along with code number three, an avid traveler must be genuinely curious to learn and understand.

Curiosity can take the shape of many forms and traveling is one of the best ways to express your thirst for knowledge. Perhaps you love history. What better opportunity is there to learn than being in the place of your interest? Maybe it’s your passion for food that drives you to a specific place, or something more nuanced like traditional culinary techniques.

Whatever your curiosity aims at, it is your obligation to seek out new information that broadens and deepens your overall understanding.

Additionally, as a guest in someone’s home it’s wise to get to know your host. Build a relationship with them by sitting down and engaging in conversation. You’ll find that your host will not only be a valuable resource of information, but also act as a compass directing you on your travels.

Too many people either forget or neglect to interact with the people assisting them on their trip. Remember everyone knows something you don’t so be genuinely curious to learn what they’re willing and able to teach you.

Lend a helping hand

5. A helping hand goes a long way which is why it’s absolutely vital to contribute either by helping with housework, cleaning, cooking, running errands or simply telling your stories.

However you choose to contribute, make sure you offer assistance for anything they may need.

Even if they don’t want or need your help, a gesture alone demonstrates your willingness, open personality and it’s even a good sign of your strong work ethic. People will always be willing or more reciprocative to you when you give respect, effort and an extended hand.

Speak the language

6. Our sixth and final code of conduct for the avid traveler is: Speak the language.

For travelers visiting another country, yes, you should learn the very basics of the culture’s language. At minimum learn the words for, “please,” “thank you,” and for your sake, “where is the bathroom?”

In my experience, giving a genuine effort when speaking a foreign language always wins respect from locals. You’re going to make a bunch of mistakes. But you need to try. When people see that you’re going out of your way to learn their language, despite how silly you may sound, they’ll not only teach you, but they’ll encourage you to keep learning.

For travelers visiting a place that shares a common language, this code still applies.

Language isn’t merely the words we use to represent things and actions. It’s also how we communicate using tone, body language, and social cues.

Speak the language means being agreeable or having the social awareness of someone’s possible intentions.You’re likely to come across a wide variety of personalities on your travels and it’s useful to know how to interact with people independent of where they land on that social spectrum.

It applies to bargaining prices, dealing with hustlers, meeting new people, creating opportunities, and making the best of your days with the people you’re with. This rule, which is partly a learned skill, decides whether or not your experiences are positive, immersive and novel.


So, there you have it.

  1. Treat others how you want to be treated
  2. Observe, listen, adapt
  3. Leave behind pre-conceived notions about the world
  4. Be genuinely curious
  5. Lend a helping hand
  6. Speak the language

What can we add to this list? I’m interested in hearing what you guys would add.

  • Leave your suggestions in the comments
  • Give this post a like, and
  • Make sure to share with your friends!

Check these out!

24 hours in Velas, São Jorge

From the Vulcão dos Capelinhos I made my way back to Horta completing my trip around Faial Island. The next morning I took the earliest ferry over to Velas, São Jorge’s capital.

I spent 24 hours walking around the town, checking out the viewpoints and making photographs. My initial goal was to backpack São Jorge as I did with Faial, however I decided it would be best to postpone until the summer.

For now, I hope you enjoy looking through the photos I took on my day trip to São Jorge Island.

This set of photos is part of a larger collection named Por Caminho that I created during my backpacking trip around Faial Island.

I intend to continue adding onto this project when I make my way back to the Azores. Until I visit all nine islands Por Caminho is still in the works.

Photos taken towards the end of November, 2019.

A ferry ride from Faial to São Jorge cost around 15 Euros.
Disembarking at Velas, São Jorge
São Jorge is known for their absolutely delicious cheese.
Pico mountain in the distance
Theres a trail behind the church that leads to the “Miradouro do Morro Das Velas”
A peaceful sheep pasture situated at the end of the trail
Velas, São Jorge
Parque De Campismo, Velas, São Jorge
The building to the right is the auditorium and library. Lucky for me, the day I arrived they had a screening of the new Joker movie!
5/5

The next morning…

Sunrise walk back to the Marina

If you guys liked this photoblog, please check out the previous collections from my travel project Por Caminho.

Have you guys been to the Azores? Comment which Islands you’ve visited and any recommendations you have. Thanks!

Por Caminho: Vulcão dos Capelinhos

Vulcão dos Capelinhos was the most impressive site I visited on Faial Island.


I spent all day here walking up and down the volcanic landscape, checking out the museum and catching the end of day’s light from the highest point.

Walking from Horta to the lighthouse pictured below was a fantastic achievement. I celebrated by giving my complete and undivided attention to my surroundings and the Atlantic beyond.

Photos taken mid November, 2019.

Volcanic cone warping into the blue sky

The Capelinhos lighthouse withstood the eruption of 1957-58 and now stands as a landmark of the Island of Faial.

Farol do Vulcão dos Capelinhos
Most of the surrounding landscape is barren with the exception of shrubs and small flowers. Nature always finds a way.
Two birds prepare for flight
The last photo I took before hiking back

Check out the previous blog posts of my backpacking trip around Faial Island!

Por Caminho: Salão, Cedros, and The Road to Praia do Norte

From Praia Do Almoxarife I hiked 10.6km(6.5 miles) to Salão. If you plan on backpacking Faial I recommend stopping here. I stayed at the campsite which had fireplace cabana and a direct path to a natural swimming pool. This set of photos is part of a larger collection named Por Caminho that I created during my backpacking […]

Praia Do Norte & Capelo Photo Collection

The hike from Salão to Praia do Norte proved to be the hardest part of my week long trip around Faial Island. The road to Praia do Norte inclined steadily with each curve. Though it helped me in the long run, trekking uphill in the cold, grey hills was challenging. The worst part by far […]

Praia Do Norte & Capelo Photo Collection

The hike from Salão to Praia do Norte proved to be the hardest part of my week long trip around Faial Island.

The road to Praia do Norte inclined steadily with each curve. Though it helped me in the long run, trekking uphill in the cold, grey hills was challenging. The worst part by far was feeling water in the soles of my boots soak into my socks.

As the sky cleared towards the end of the day the sun reached out to the surrounding landscape. By then I had reached Praia do Norte and my goal for the day was complete. My reward was a complete sunset overview of the youngest part of Faial.

This set of photos is part of a larger collection named Por Caminho that I created during my backpacking trip around Faial Island.

Photos taken mid November, 2019

Miradouro da Ribeira Funda
Miradouro da Ribeira das Cabras

“The Ribeira das Cabras Viewpoint shows the complete landscape of the youngest area of Faial Island, the peninsula of Capelo being 10,000 years old. In here are the most recent volcanic cones of the island. On the right, it’s possible to see the Fajã, a portion of land created by lava flow that cooled down on contact with the water. The two historic eruptions of Faial happened in here: Cabeço do Fogo in 1672 who’s lava flows formed the Misteiros and finished the formation of the Fajã causing a great destruction in the parishes of Praia do Norte and Capelo and the emigration of several families to Brazil. The Capelinhos Volcano eruption in 1958 devastated and caused a large emigration flow of almost all the population of Praia do Norte parish to the United States.”

-Tourism board


Capelo

The next morning I packed up camp and headed to Capelo where I planned to spend the entire afternoon at the famous Vulcão dos Capelinhos (Capelinhos Volcano.)

I enjoyed every step of the way through the little town of Capelo. There were numerous traditional-styled homes (pictured below) and the view of the ocean was always to my left.

Along the way I noticed how far I had already come. I was more than halfway around the Island of Faial and I was about to gaze upon what all the Azores travel magazines advertised as the “Mars-like landscape of the Azores.”

Green field farm house and Cabeço do Fogo in the background.
Boa tarde!
Ponta de Castelo Branco
Traditional Azorean home
Backpacking grants you the time to think about life in symbolic terms.
Casal do Vulcão- Hostel
Sign to Vulcão dos Capelinhos: a natural reserve and Azores GeoPark
The lighthouse at Vulcão Dos Capelinhos now acts as an interactive science museum. You can walk around the exhibit or climb to the top for a 360 view of the surrounding landscape. More on this in the next blog post.

Previous:

  1. Horta
  2. Horta’s Marina
  3. Praia Do Almoxarife
  4. Salão, Cedros, and The Road to Praia do Norte

Next: Vulcão dos Capelinhos

Por Caminho: Salão, Cedros, and The Road to Praia do Norte

From Praia Do Almoxarife I hiked 10.6km(6.5 miles) to Salão.

If you plan on backpacking Faial I recommend stopping here. I stayed at the campsite which had fireplace cabana and a direct path to a natural swimming pool.

This set of photos is part of a larger collection named Por Caminho that I created during my backpacking trip around Faial Island.

Photos taken mid November, 2019

I reached Ribeirinha mid-day with enough sunlight and energy to continue hiking towards Salão
The Islands in the distance from left to right are São Jorge and Pico
One thing I noted on my backpacking trip were how colourful and vibrant some of the houses were.
From Horta to Salão- 15.7 km or 9.7 miles
Parque de Campismo (campsite)
Fireplace Cabana at Salão’s camp site (parque de campismo.) Although I was here alone in November, I could imagine sitting around the fire with friends during the summer. It’s a perfect location day and night.
The boardwalk leading down to the natural swimming pool
São Jorge in the distance.

I woke up the next morning to wind dashing against my tent. Water droplets dotted the roof and one by one scurried off the side. After a few minutes more laying there watching the raindrops race each other, a warm glow cloaked the tent. I unzipped the door, flung my feet onto the wet grass, and laid there a while longer.

Nothing ever lasts. Grey clouds were gathering in the distance. I packed up camp and headed out. As soon as I turned onto the main road it started to rain. Luckily, there was a Casa do Povo which is a sort of gathering hall/cafe for locals. I waited out the rain there, having breakfast and making small talk with the older gentleman behind the bar. When the clouds cleared, I took my chances.

Xavier Cafe- Modern restaurant and cafe in Cedros where I stopped for a meia de leite
I took this photo right outside Ribeira Funda, 9.7 km (6miles) away from Salão. Fortunately for me, it didn’t end up raining even though the entire day was dark and cold. What was challenging however, was the slight incline of the roads. Each turn seemed to be steeper than the last This actually worked in my favour since it increased my body temperature.
3 miles out
From Horta to Praia do Norte: 29 km (18 miles)

There wasn’t much to look at as I passed Ribeira Funda and not three miles away was the next major town: Praia Do Norte.

That’s where I would set up camp.

I was determined to make it there.

In the distance I could see large mountains hiding behind a screen of mist. I knew I just had to keep walking and I’d eventually make it there.

Street Photography In The Heart of Bogota

Bogota was one of the three major cities I visited in Colombia this past summer.

When I was there I didn’t have a precise objective. Everyday I ended up walking around the center of Bogota taking photos of the architecture, the graffiti and the liveliness of the streets. Of course there were certain things I wanted to see as a tourist like the world famous Gold Museum and the spectacular view atop mount Monserreti, but they weren’t my main focus. Aside from the tourist attractions, I really just enjoyed wandering around. 

Bogota was cold when I arrived mid August. Unexpectedly cold. Coming from the summer heat of Cartagena and the refreshing mountain air of Medellin it really threw me off when I got to the high-altitude capital of Bogota. I must say however, the people I became friends with in Bogota were warm and welcoming. That made all the difference.

Continue reading “Street Photography In The Heart of Bogota”