WANDERING WONDER WOMAN - a travel blog
Traveler vs. Tourist
The Aged (to Perfection) Opinion
In the world of travel, sometimes the words traveler and tourist are used interchangeably. However, these titles have different implications depending on the situation. There are times when it is simply fine to be a tourist, for instance, if you are in Paris, and there is a queue three blocks long to see the Eiffel Tower; it’s still the symbol of Paris, and not something to be missed. However, the urge to tick off every sight and document it with a camera leaves one, not only exhausted, but void of the experience a destination offers. With that in mind, I have, in my many years of traveling, tried to develop a guideline for travelers who want the best of both worlds.
Even if a person thinks they will only have one opportunity to visit a particular country, take the time to explore this area in depth, rather than try to do everything in a short time. As a travel consultant, I often have clients who want to have their once in a life-time chance to go to Europe. I always begin with the question of which countries they most want to visit. When I hear, England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, and then perhaps, if there’s time, Ireland, and Scotland, I take a deep breath, and suggest they limit themselves a bit. So, after I have condensed my client’s expectations to a total of two or three countries, I begin by helping them truly experience their trip as a traveler with a touch of “tourist” combined.
1. Pack Light. I begin with the suggestion to limit their packing; keeping in mind that white tennis shoes, short shorts, and fanny packs should be left at home. Concentrate on modest dress, simple colors, and comfortable walking shoes. This not only helps with the limitation of luggage overload, but helps one blend in with the locals, as opposed to screaming tourist going on a beach holiday.
2. Leave the stack of guide books at home. While it’s great to have done some research before one travels, don’t get hung up on the opinions of those who may be getting paid to give their restaurant a favored review. Instead, rely on your hotel desk clerk to ask about neighborhood restaurants, and don’t be afraid to experience a restaurant, just because they don’t have a menu in English. I’ve found some of the best restaurants are those tucked away down small streets that have fewer than 20 tables.
3. Don’t be afraid to walk and use public transport. Some of the most undiscovered pleasures of many European cities, are found in the myriad of parks that are within the confines, of otherwise crowded cities. Be an observer, and stop and sit on a park bench and enjoy watching children play, and couples engaging in conversation.
4. Get Lost. Wander into a church, even if it’s not listed as something famous. Finding a plaque of vicars from the 13th century on the wall is an unexpected treasure, and one that jolts you back to the reality of how young our country really is.
5. Relax. Remember that sometimes the experience is the destination, rather than the destination being the experience.
The Mid-Lifer Opinion
Tourist vs. Traveler, what’s the difference? Travelers hold a respect for the area they are visiting, relax when things don’t go quite the way they expected, and enjoy almost every moment of the journey. Tourists talk to the gypsies (no, just no), are in the Louvre only to view the Mona Lisa, and seek out a McDonalds for their evening meal. Ideas for becoming a better traveler:
1. Know Before You Go. I speak sarcasm and German fluently……. and only one of those statements is a lie. In all seriousness when traveling to a country where the language is unfamiliar to you, try to learn a little before arriving. Of course, everyone should know how to say please and thank you in the country they’ll be visiting (you were all raised right I’m sure) but other suggestions would be “where’s the bathroom?” or “how much is this?” and my personal favorite “do not touch me.” You’ll use that last one more than you think; I’ve got it down in three different languages: no me toques, non toccare, and ne me touche pas.
2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T any and all religious monuments & churches. If you want to enter a holy sanctuary, be it a church or a shrine, and entry requires a certain body part to be covered, COVER IT! Do not argue! Rest assured you will not die a horrible death from covering your shoulders or head for a brief moment. If this offends you, then do not enter. Also, never take photos inside a church unless you have confirmed that it is acceptable to do so.
3. Say Cheese. Speaking of photographs, take them! Don’t waste time buying trinkets that will break within a few months of arriving home. Let’s face it you can only have so many magnets, mugs and keychains before it becomes pointless. Memories are the best souvenirs but over time they can fade. Photos will preserve sometimes what the mind cannot; plus, they’re cheaper than that $19.99 travel mug.
4. Try It Before You Deny It.Eat like a local! In many countries the local cuisine is a good representation of the culture. Small local eateries are usually the best but always be sure to ask the hotel staff what they would recommend. Taking a chance on an exotic dish might actually be worth it and a great story to tell later. I’m still telling mine about the Peruvian Guinea Pig farm. Nothing beats the look of horror on your own child’s face when they learn that their mother ate a guinea pig, and has the pictures to prove it. But on the upside, he’s finally stopped asking for that pet guinea pig, because you never know mom might get hungry.
5. Listen and Learn. Keep an open mind and show regard to the local citizen’s values, traditions and pace of life. Try not to compare the culture of the area you are visiting to your own. One of the main benefits in travel is getting out of your comfort zone to see the differences of other societies and their people. Travelers travel to learn, gain experiences and get a better understanding of this world we all have to live in.
The Young One’s Opinion
Okay, let’s have an honest moment. At one point or another, we’ve all been the stereotypical Tourist. We might not want to admit it, but hey, this is a safe space. Yes, even I have a picture of myself at 18 years old “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And just a word to the wise, it’s A LOT harder to get that photo then you’d think. What I want to do is give you a few tips on how to make the transition from Tourist to Traveler. Now, you may be asking yourself – what’s the difference between a Tourist and a Traveler? It sure sounds like they’re the same thing, right? Well…not so much. The guy standing on the sidewalk holding his selfie stick with one hand and holding an open map in the other – that’s a Tourist. The woman having a café au lait at the small corner coffee shop on a hidden side street she heard about from the hotel concierge – that’s a Traveler. Here are five tips to help you go from Tourist to Traveler:
1. Eat Local: The one thing I always recommend to clients before they travel is to try the local dishes. I know how tempting it is to stop into that McDonalds or KFC, or to eat chicken fingers every night because it’s the only thing you recognize on the menu. But one of the best ways to be a Traveler is to venture off the beaten path a little bit to local dining spots and try some of the dishes the country is known for. I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised at how many things you’ll actually enjoy. And don’t be afraid to ask your hotel concierge for restaurant recommendations. Locals always know the best spots!
2. Research the Surrounding Area: One of the easiest ways to scream to the world that you’re a Tourist is to stand around pointing to an open map, while loudly yelling at your spouse because he’s sent in you in circles for the third time. Been there, done that – and I’m just saying, the Colosseum isn’t that hard to find. You might as well have a neon sign over your head that says “I’M NOT FROM AROUND HERE”. Before you leave home, hop online and look for major landmarks around your hotel. See how far it is from point to point, and look for major streets to take. Another good thing to do is to grab a local map from your hotel concierge and look it over in your hotel room the night before you have any big sightseeing planned.
3. Research the Local Customs: Did you know that in some countries it is uncommon (or even rude) to tip your server or bartender? Did you know that in Spain, businesses will sometimes close for a time to observe the traditional mid-day rest? A good way to be a Traveler is to do a little research on the local customs of the country you’re traveling to. This will help you be better prepared when you arrive in your country of choice.
4. Make an Effort to Speak the Local Language: Even if it’s just “Hello” and “Goodbye” (or in my case “could you please tell me how much this costs?”), learning a little bit of the local language will really help you make that transition from Tourist to Traveler. It also shows the locals that you’ve tried to learn a little bit about their country. Even if you completely botch the pronunciation (which I’ve done more times then I’d like to admit), they will appreciate the effort. Oh, and I should probably mention, a phrase that it never hurts to learn – “Where’s your bathroom?”.
5. Know the Local Currency: Vocabulary lesson time, folks – In Cuba, CUC (pronounced “kook”) refers to: (A) a local food dish, (B) money, or (C) a type of local wildlife. If you answered “B” you would be correct! Another easy way to avoid being a Tourist is to learn about the local currency of your destination before you go. Exchange rates are important to understand, as well as the form that the currency takes. In some countries, like England, One British Pound Sterling will come to you in coin form – not paper. And let me tell you, they’ll make your wallet awfully heavy!