Tourist or Traveller- does it matter?

So, what the flip is this thing we have about travel snobbery?

When did we all have to stop being tourists and start being travellers?

What’s the difference and why does it matter so much?

And anyways, what’s so great about being one and so nose screwy up about being the other?

I think I first noticed it a couple of years ago when we booked to go on a cruise.

Mr T had been pushing for cruises to be included in the options list for our annual holiday for as long as I can remember.

So we booked one.

I was a little hesitant because, to be honest, I don’t really like other people en masse that much and I was concerned about being stuck on a boat. I don’t even like harbour cruise Christmas parties- for the same reason.

I wasn’t prepared for the comments:

‘A cruise? Really? Isn’t that like a floating tour bus?’

‘A cruise? Really? Isn’t that like a floating RSL?’

‘A cruise? Really? And you call yourself a traveller?’


We had a great time. I found space on the boat, avoided the buffet and chose our shore excursions carefully. Our daughter, in particular, loved it.

Many years ago, Mr T and I did a 3 week tour through Europe- one of those “it’s day 3, we must be in Lyon” type things.

Mr T was over 30, so we were too old for the backpacker bus and found ourselves with an older crowd.

I got claustrophobic. By day 2, I was sick of having times and running sheets barked at me. So Mr T and I made a pact- the only excursions we did with the group would be the included ones.  The only meals we would have with the group would be the included ones.

This meant we did the rest under our own steam.

They’d come back complaining about the prices of sandwiches and soft drinks from the sellers in Pisa, we’d waltz back on the bus having found a cute spot that sold pizza and wine for less than $10.

It worked.

The thing about tour buses is that it allows you to tick off major locations without stressing about the travel involved between.

It doesn’t, however, allow time for exploration and immersion. The big difference is time.

Take Australia for instance. It takes forever to see this huge continent, yet overseas visitors can get a taster of what we’re about, and spend a little money here in the process as tourists. That, to me, is a good thing.

Reading between the lines, it seems that tourists stay in hotels, resorts and cruise ships and travel in an organised or group fashion.

Travellers explore and immerse and wander. Rather than 5 countries in 6 days, they might immerse themselves in 1 over a longer period. Rather than staying in a hotel, there is a pride taken in roughing it a little more or self catering.

My travelling bucket list has places on it that I want to visit for tick off purposes and places I want to visit for immersion purposes. I’ll do the first by way of cruises or drive throughs, I’ll do the second through longer stays.

I went to Bali for the first time last February as part of a girls weekend.

Before I went, the comments started:

‘Bali? Really? Isn’t that a little like another state of Australia?

‘Bali? Really? It was once nice…’

‘Bali? Really? Way too many ugly Aussies over there.’

The thing is, before I went, I would have made the same comments myself.

Rather than being a tick off place to lie by the pool, it turned into an exercise in immersion as we wandered through the island and away from the tourist mecca.

Since that first trip, I’ve been back a few times and will do so again. I have no doubt that it has changed since that first Qantas load of Aussie tourists, but to me anywhere I haven’t been before is the road less travelled, and therefore new…to me.

The other thing is the discussion between resorts and self-catering apartments.

‘Oh, I don’t do resorts- so fake. It’s much better to find a cheap apartment and live like the locals.’

I get that.

Personally though, when I travel I like a combination of freedom to do my own thing and the feeling that I’m treating myself with a little luxury.

Mr T and Miss T both love the options that resorts provide if the weather is shitty and Miss T would never leave the grounds if she didn’t have to.

It’s a matter of personal preference.

So, we tend to compromise, as you do in a family, and stay in a resort, but eat and drink elsewhere.

It’s like being a traveller from a tourist base.

I love the fact that the world is accessible. I love the fact that we have the choice to immerse or to take a few photos and leave. I love the fact that we get to experience other places and broaden our physical horizons and our mind. I love the fact that I can choose to be a traveller or a tourist, and I love the fact that it doesn’t worry me much which one I am as long as I have a boarding pass in my hand and a stamp in my passport.

I never ever want to be jaded by the process or fail to be excited about hopping onto a plane to somewhere. Yep, I’m the person who grabs the airline menu and wonders without complaint what’s on offer. Apparently that’s something a tourist does, whereas a traveller leans back and sleeps. So I’ve been told.

We’re booked to go to Bangkok and Phuket in April. I’m already hearing the comments. Again, the ugly Aussie tourist is thrown into the mix.

Which brings me to another wtf- we all complain about the ugly Aussie tourist, but do any of us ever admit to being that person? Hmmm, maybe that’s a whole other rant.

What about you? Are you a tourist, a traveller or, like me, a little of both?

6 Comments on “Tourist or Traveller- does it matter?

  1. Actually no- it doesn’t matter. As long as we enjoy going where we go and doing what we do it really doesn’t matter what people call us.

  2. Really good post… I’ve been guilty of indulging every now and again in the tourist/traveller dichotomy, but really, my travel style is more a mix and an amalgamation of both, rather than just one way of travel. We are all different, so it makes sense that we travel differently. Places are different, so it makes sense that in different places, we do different things. When I was in Peru and Bolivia and joined an organised tour, which made hopping borders and arranging transport seamless and headache free. I then travelled independently through Argentina. When I went to the Whitsundays, I booked 2 nights in a luxe resort on one of the islands, 2 nights in a backpackers on the mainland, then 4 nights on a budget cruise. So does that make me a tourist? Or a traveller? I say both! 🙂

  3. I can understand this…. but agree that it’s more about what you get out of it. There are certain places I have no desire to go and Bali, Phuket etc are included… but that’s more cos I’m a bad tourist. Although I haven’t done any travel for ages, I’m like… “Meh, another (castle / lion / church / ruin etc”) I’ve always been keen to travel to Italy but envisage periods veging in various locales (the cliched week in Tuscany etc). I like just kinda ‘being’ rather than having to see stuff.

    Plus I don’t like beaches – hence my lack of interest in Bali / Phuket etc.

    • Lol- my hubby doesn’t like beaches either- except to walk on. We’re going to Phuket for the 1st time next April & he’s insisting on somewhere beach front- he likes to look at it.

  4. Pingback: I must confess…bucket lists… « and anyways…

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