Why it's better to be a tourist than a traveler
Nowadays, there seems to be a raging debate about the differentiation between “tourists” and “travelers.”
Tourists are believed to be culturally insensitive, unwilling to step out of their comfort zones, and always traveling in packs. Travelers, on the other hand, are lauded for their adventurous and independent spirit, their insatiable curiosity, and their ability to immerse themselves culturally.
In fact, the term "tourist" has become an insult, a way of singling out people who are simply believed to be traveling wrong.
But being a tourist isn’t all bad. Here’s what they do right:
1. Tourists know how to maximize their time off
Instead of wasting precious time and money in aninternet café trying to book a last-minute room or wandering around for hours trying to find a “local gem” rather than eating in a guidebook-recommended restaurant, tourists spend their time more efficiently and deliberately, allowing for more time spent doing what they actually want to do, whether it's soaking up the sites or the sun.
2. Tourists can be lazy sans guilt
Being a traveler can come with a lot of pressure — pressure to find the road less traveled, pressure to soak up boatloads of culture, pressure to see everything while at the same time avoiding other travelers (because being around fellow travelers ultimately makes you a tourist.) Tourists, on the other hand, can laze at the beach, piña colada in hand, without feeling guilty for not doing something slightly more significant.
3. Tourists can easily unwind
It takes a lot of work to effectively embody the traveler stereotype while making it look effortless: travelers work hard to see, do, and experience everything — and do it all without the help of a map or guidebook. Travelers can become so caught up with turning every minute into a culturally significant moment, and making each trip a journey that they forget they’re on vacation, thus eschewing some much-needed rest and relaxation.
4. Tourists can do what they actually want to do
From getting cornrows in Jamaica to riding elephants in Thailand to taking those dreaded “holding up the Tower of Pisa” pictures, tourists are hard to embarrass (just check out their fanny packs!). But that’s a good thing. Their lack of concern about doing things that are deemed touristy or shameful frees them up to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and thereby fully take control of their time off.
5. Tourists can explore the beaten path
The beaten path may be beaten for a reason. Because it’s good. Because it’s interesting. What, are you going to visit Cairo without seeing the pyramids because it’s touristy?
6. Tourists can get the best photos
It must be crippling to always be concerned with what others think. Often, travelers don’t keep their cameras handy for fear of “looking like a tourist.” Too bad, because they just missed a shot of that massive wave crashing into Bali’s Tanah Lot temple while digging around their backpacks for their camera phone.
7. Tourists can play off faux pas
Tourists can always clutch their guidebook and say they didn't know any better when they gave a thumbs up in Iran, didn't slurp their noodles in Japan, or refused a drink in Ukraine. A self-pronounced traveler, however, probably should have known better.
8. Tourists can share their experiences with others
Meeting locals is obviously great, but that shouldn’t mean avoiding your own country folk like the plague. Unlike the traveler who resents all other travelers, tourists don’t expect to have holy sites and world wonders to themselves. It's easier to make new acquaintances and share your experiences when you're not trying to avoid other people who are traveling too.
9. Tourists can fend off muggers with their massive guidebooks
You might laugh at the guidebook wielding tourists, but they just might have the last laugh when it doubles as a weapon.
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