Travelers and tourists both like to travel and visit places. However, depending on the cause of travel, you can only use one of the terms to describe a person who travels. For instance, a tourist travels for pleasure while a traveler goes on a journey. Also, tourists are considered amateurs, but at the same time, you can’t become a traveler before being a tourist first. You can learn how to be a traveler instead of a tourist by following some simple steps. So let us see how you can improve your traveling experiences and learn how to blend in as a traveler instead of sticking out as a tourist.
Research your destination
Before visiting any new place, you should first research it. And not just on the map. That is one big difference between travelers and tourists. While tourists seek out the major attractions of their destination, travelers seek out the culture and history of the place. Additionally, travelers study the local customs to communicate and connect with the locals more easily. Furthermore, research can also keep you safe during solo travel. If you know where you are heading, you know how to avoid problematic neighborhoods or conflict areas, for instance.
As a result, research your destination on travel blogs and guidebooks, look for local newspapers, and watch documentaries. Know as much as you can about your destination, and you will be one step closer to being a traveler instead of a tourist.
Live like a local
While most tourists choose to stay in a hotel, travelers prefer to be closer to the locals by staying at an Airbnb, a hostel, or even Couchsurfing. That way, their experience is more authentic and personalized. You can even look for a voluntary homestay if you want to be in the heart of the community and be helpful. There, locals will be grateful for your help and warmly welcome you. However, if you are uncertain about where you will be staying or how secure the place will be, you should leave your valuables at home. You can, for instance, rent a storage unit where you can store your belongings until you return from your travel. Storage units are a safe and secure place where your valuables will be in good hands for as long as you need.
Forget your camera
One thing that reveals that a person is a tourist is the camera in their hand or the obnoxious selfie stick. All locals despise tourists for snapping hundreds of photos per minute, posing for the perfect selfie in the wrong place, and using the flash when they shouldn’t. If you want to be a traveler instead of a tourist, forget about your camera from time to time. Sure, you can photograph special moments or places that will make great memories. Nobody will tell you otherwise. However, be careful about how and when you do it. For instance, always get permission before photographing people, monuments, graves, or works of art. Also, make sure that when you are trying to take a picture, you are not blocking the way or the view of others. Be polite, and nobody will hold a grudge against you for taking pictures.
Put away your map
Another thing specific to tourists is the map in their hands. You can always see a confused tourist sitting in the middle of a road, checking a map for directions. So if you don’t want to end up in the same situation, put away your map. Or, better yet, get lost in the city. Travelers are known for spontaneity and not so much for planning. Also, you will never know what hidden jewel you can find in the small neighborhoods of a city. It can be a valuable painting tucked away in a local church, a beautiful monument, or impressive street architecture.
In addition, when you get lost in the city, you will also see the daily life of locals. You will see where children like to play, where the elderly meet to socialize, and where and how locals relax. And, after you see how locals live, you can get a bit more personal and socialize.
Learn the language and socialize
You have to get to know a place firsthand if you want a true sense of it. And that you will achieve by meeting the locals and doing what they are doing. Ask them where the best food is, what you can do for fun, or where to go for hikes. Locals will always tell you the little secrets of their city that don’t appear in guidebooks. Of course, you should first learn at least a few words in their language. Learn how to greet politely, how to say thank you and please, yes and no, and how to say that you don’t understand. Any local will be thrilled about your effort to learn their language, even if it’s just a few words. Furthermore, you can even expect your effort to be rewarded with a special tour of the city or a great travel tip.
Avoid cheap souvenirs
You will undoubtedly come across several small yet crowded souvenir shops wherever you go. They are full of noisy tourists that are looking for a bargain. Most tourists, however, are unaware that those shops are often a rip-off, and the items they buy are not authentic. That is why, if you want to be a traveler instead of a tourist, take your time and find the most original souvenirs to take home. For instance, you can visit local stores and markets and find handcrafted or locally made products. And the best part is that you can, most of the time, negotiate the price for what you buy from a producer. However, you should always be polite and know when there is space for bargaining or when you should pay the price listed. Even if some vendors are trying to empty your wallet, it is not the case with all of them.
Be a traveler instead of a tourist
The main difference between tourists and travelers will always be time. Tourists usually have limited time on their hands to visit and explore a destination. For that reason, they move with the crowd, pay higher prices for everything, and return home more tired than when they left. Travelers, on the other hand, have time to get lost in the surroundings, meet the locals, learn the language, and most of all, relax. That’s why it will pay off to be a traveler instead of a tourist.