Traveller vs. Tourist

Incurable Wanderlust Podcast - Episode 1

Ever heard of the term Traveller (Traveler for my American friends) and tourist? Ever wondered why there was a difference? In this episode we go over what a traveller is and what a tourist is; there is also a quiz to see which term you would fit under.


Hey everyone, this is Emily from The Female Abroad and you are listening to the Incurable Wanderlust podcast which offers tips, tricks and trips to help make you a more confident and knowledgeable traveler. Here we provide and discuss firsthand knowledge from our trips to make sure your trip planning is easier. Be sure to follow so you can find this podcast when you really need it and visit for podcasts transcripts, our social media links, and more information that can help you with all your travel planning.

Today is episode one so welcome! Thanks for joining. Since it is the very first one, I thought that it might be best to start at the very beginning. So today's topic is traveler versus tourist. Do you know the difference? Most people do not so keep listening to find out which one you are.

My goal with a female abroad has always been to help people become confident knowledgeable travelers and not tourists. But what really is a tourist or a traveler? Is there a difference? According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, they're pretty much the exact same things.

A tourist is someone who makes a tour for the pleasure culture, and a traveller is someone that goes on a trip or journey since that just makes things a little more muddled. Let's start breaking the words down. A tourist experiences tourism which is an activity of traveling to a place for pleasure. Travellers experience travel, which means they go on a journey. Doesn't help us anymore because you could have a pleasurable journey so let's break it down a little further.

The word travel is actually a generic term that is commonly used in day to day life to talk about traveling in the general way. Tourism is an industry in which businesses provide hospitality like accommodations or restaurant, transportation, anything else really that's involved with getting a tourist to a place of interest.

So that does help us a little bit. Basically the tourism industry creates tourists. Over the last few years I've noticed an increase in people wanting to be called travelers though not tourists. Why? Well if you think about it, all the negative articles or news headlines you read regarding travel. What do you normally hear tourist ruins local monument, tourists are overwhelming the city, stupid local tourists breaks local law again. Do you ever hear about a traveler mentioned in any of the negative headlines? More than likely not.

As we start to piece things together did you know that there actually is a difference between being a tourist and being a traveller? With more and more people travelling and frequent travellers feeling that tourists give travel a bad name, they've drawn a hard line in the sand to make sure that tourists are not travellers and travellers are not tourists.

Now it's time for some audience interaction which I know is difficult given it's a podcast but if you can go and grab a piece of paper and a pen but hit pause before you do because I have a simple quiz for you. If you've not hit pause yet to go look for a way to write. Do so right here. Right now.

Hopefully that Jeopardy music gave you a chance to get all settled and grab your pen pencil or writing utensil, or if you unpause the podcast, and we're surprised by that. Welcome back! So I'm going to ask you a few questions and all you need to do is just answer yes or no.

  1. on a trip, do you just go somewhere to say that you've been or you've seen something?
  2. on a trip, Do you complain when something isn't just like it is at home?
  3. on a trip do you stay in only three plus star hotels?
  4. do you form your list of must see places or restaurants to try from a top 10 list or guidebook?
  5. on a trip do you strive to get an Instagram worthy photo?
  6. on a trip do you go for less than 72 hours?
  7. do you show more interest in what you're doing than what's going on around you?

If you've answered yes to all, or at least the majority of these questions, then you're a tourist and not a traveler.

A super simple way to figure out the difference between the two is to think about a tourist as someone who wants to take photos or say that they've been somewhere whereas a traveler wants to go explore the area, meet the locals and grow from the experience being there. The travel industry and frequent travelers really see tourists as an incompetent, inexperienced Amateur Traveller like a child almost compared to an adult.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that if you're going to be a tourist as long as you do it correctly. After all tourist dollars have helped a lot of islands and poor nations survive. If it wasn't for you a lot of businesses which is close up shop. Plus there are also some trips that even if you're a traveler, you may want to take somewhere just for pleasure to relax or because you really want it to go because there was a really neat photo on Instagram.

Also, if you think of it with the child adult analogy, you have to be a child before you can become an adult. Travelers are not just born, they're made through experience and interests.

I once heard that 50% of American adults do not own a passport because they do not see a need to travel outside of their own country. If you have no interest in being a tourist than being a traveler, is not for you. I also kind of wonder if this statistic is legit, or it's made up. I mean, there's like an 84% chance that Nicolas Cage is a vampire and a 100% chance that I made that last statistic up. I mean, I find 50% to be a really scary high number.

Travelers usually try to immerse themselves in culture. So they do research to learn how they should dress simple words or phrases in a local language, read up on the cultural norms. They really want to be shaped by this experience and just be surrounded by the culture and where they're traveling. Travelers, however, also think that they would never visit any quote unquote tourist site, because in actuality, sometimes when you travel somewhere, they might only be known for that tourist site.

However, these sites still might be worth a visit because it could be culturally significant. Or if there's nothing else to do, why not just go and check it out? On the other side of the coin, there's also lots of places where tourist sites are worth skipping, like Mount Rushmore or their tower of Pisa. Unless of course you have a reason to go there. Like maybe the history really interests you or you have an Abraham Lincoln fetish. I mean, I'm not here to judge!

There are places that you want to go to, that are more far off the beaten track, let's say like Bhutan or North Korea, you cannot visit those without actually going on a tour whether it'd be a private one or with a group. You just can't show up and go unfortunately.

For me, I like to make travelers because I find that when you are a traveler learning or surrounding yourself in the culture people on your trip, you will end up learning more about yourself as well as the world. The world is becoming more globally connected than ever and with events like COVID or the Ukrainian war, showing ripple effects worldwide, understanding different cultures is starting to become one of the most important skills you can have.

However, I would be jaded if I said everyone wants to be a traveler. I am a former travel agent so I know that some people just want to go to Lake Titicaca to say that they've been they care more about the status than the experience. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you do it correctly.

As I interact more with different cultures and age groups, I'm starting to notice that the Xennials, Millenials, and Gen Z's are more interested in culture than the Boomers and the generations before them. Through my travels, I've also noticed that the people I've interacted within communist or poor countries, always dream of what it would be like just to visit a different country, or to hop on a plane and go anywhere for a weekend. They never want to leave their country long term, but just having the chance to take some time away is of interest of them and as they slowly interact with a variety of people from around the world, that drive and want grows.

If you're headed out on a trip and want to be more of a traveler than a tourist, then there's a few things you could do.

You could always try staying in a local b&b (so a bed and breakfast instead of an Airbnb), a hostel or guesthouse instead of a hotel. These are some great ways where you can interact with the local you can see how they live.

Try to connect with someone locally on social media to find out the best things to do places to eat, even the best areas to stay in.

You could also try instead of Googling top 10 XYZ try and local favorites in XYZ.

Keep some of your trips spontaneous and open so you can explore the area you're staying at. Some of my favorite trips started with a morning of just wandering around the city seeing how the shops open, seeing what the locals do.

Eat a local joints or even better mom and pop places as long as you won't catch any gastrointestinal illnesses. Ask someone at your accommodation like the vacation rental owner if you do have to go the Airbnb route or the front desk where they would recommend. If they say something like KFC or McDonald's then ask them for something a little more local. Or if that's all I can give you then just ask someone else. Truthfully I don't even think in the US people would recommend either one of those restaurants if asked for a restaurant suggestion.

If you can travel and you have to go between areas or regions, but flying is just only one of many options. Try something on the ground, or more local. For me when I went to Vietnam, I traveled to Cambodia on a public bus. One of the reasons is because private transport is usually held up at the borders for a thorough inspection. Whereas the public buses traveled through there so regularly they don't get looked over as hard. The people on the public bus also collect your passports, your fees as the processing costs as soon as you sit down. So everything is taken care of when you arrive. You literally show up at the border, get off the bus, wait in the hall until your name is called, collect your passport, walk to the next guard who just bob's his head, and then you exit out the back to then try and find your bus again. It's super simple and quite the experience.

From that experience, however, here's a great example of a traveler versus a tourist. I walked into the bathroom in the hall when we got off the bus used it and left. However, as I was leaving the bathroom I noticed a lineup of people who were giving this woman money that was standing outside of the bathroom who wasn't there when I walked in. I asked someone in the area that spoke English what was going on. It turned out that a bus of Chinese tourists thought that they had to pay this woman to use the bathroom. I can only imagine how much money this woman collected from the so called quote unquote stupid tourists. It just goes to show that it does not matter what culture you are. We are all gullible and there will be someone to take advantage of you.

No matter your reason for going on your trip, your journey, your travel, whichever you want to call it. Just remember that what you visit and how you do it is all up to you. Just please stop breaking rules, stealing things you're feeling, not listening or reading the rules are the signs that are posted, and all other quote unquote stupid tourist actions that give tourists a bad name worldwide.

Now remember, this is just the first episode and just the tip of the iceberg. Next Thursday, make sure to tune in for the basics of starting trip research. If you're someone that plans your own trips or wants to start, then this is an episode you will not want to miss

Thank you for listening and make sure to follow or subscribe so you never miss an episode and can find us when you need to plan your next trip. If you can recommend the incurable wonder loss to those that you travel with. And also if you have a moment, leave us a rating and review. In the review if there are topics or destinations that you'd like to learn more about, make sure to include it in your comment. Also, do not forget to visit for more helpful tips, tricks and trips, as well as podcast transcripts.

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Thanks again for listening and until next week. Safe travels!