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What's the difference between a traveler and a tourist? What are you?

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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:22 AM
  #1
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What's the difference between a traveler and a tourist? What are you?

Is there a difference? If there is, does it matter?

I aspire to be a traveler, but I think I'm too lazy.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:30 AM
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IMO, a tourist is one who goes to a location and sets out to see mostly "the sites."

If I go someplace and have no desire to do anything but just "be" there, then I am a traveller.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:41 AM
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I'm a tourist. I will go to all sorts of places independently and want to see how locals live and go to typical restaurants and cafes - but I want to see all the major sights (as well as some minor ones) - but at the end of the day I want a comfy hotel room with AC, room service and TV with a gazillion channels - and a good concierge.

I have a friend who is a traveler. She has been up the Amazon - in a canoe not a river boat - lived in a yurt in Mongolia - and stayed in a lot of small towns around the world without the amenities that I expect (places with limited electricity and hot water). She is also in a position to take extended trip (6 to 8 weeks often) which I just don;t have the time for.

And even if I did - I wouldn't enjoy the roughing it that she does.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:42 AM
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Tourists believe everything they read in a guide book. Travelers know better.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:47 AM
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Id say a tourist is an amateur traveller and a traveller is a professional tourist.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:51 AM
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Good take, Fashionista!
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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A traveller can be visiting on business and never see a single site. A tourist is someone travelling for pure enjoyment. That's me.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 12:39 PM
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Both and it doesn't matter.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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Traveler-One who takes public transportation(bus,tram,rickshaw);stays at less than 3 star hotels;shops with the locals,enjoys the locals' culture,etc.

Tourist-One who has to stay at the top hotels;has a driver in every city and can only eat at the hotel restaurant as all others are too dirty and only wants to see what is mentioned in the guidebook.
Just my take...
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Jun 27th, 2010, 12:51 PM
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Fashionista and dutyfree have it right.

Travellers will spend an hour sitting with a coffee al fresco NOT in the tourist center, and watching the passing scene. If they don't get to everything, they don't worry. They'll figure on coming back.

Tourists want to "hit" all the "must-sees" in a town before they leave.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 12:58 PM
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Husband, who toured Europe and South America for months and months at a time before I ever did always put it this way: Travelers anticipate and accept that there will be problems on their trips; tourists are surprised and upset when there are.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:05 PM
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You forgot sightseers.

Sightseers and tourists are sensation seekers. Their journeys are a constant process of refining and editing, and making sure they get what they want.

Travelers don't know that they want -- if anything.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:11 PM
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Kind of ironic asking this question on Fodors, of all places.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:11 PM
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As Billy Crystal would say, "I'm on vacation here!!!!!"

I just think for some people it just sounds cooler to say they're travelers. There is a certain pretentiousness to the term "traveler," in my opinion.

Having a glass of wine for an hour in a "non-touristy section" of town makes you no more a traveler than someone who is having a glass of wine for 15 minutes in the "must-see" part of town.

Studying the nuances of The Water Lilies for half a day makes you no more a traveler than someone who looks at it for five minutes and wants to move on to the next museum.

Tourist? Traveler? Who cares? Just have a good attitude and a good time.

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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:18 PM
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This is a false dichotomy, if you ask me.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:21 PM
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Both. There are times I gawk at sights or get lost in the moment or think I am the first one to find the Coliseum in Rome. But we always learn a few words of the language, try to learn some history, read some of the more important works of the culture, be familiar with the art, and understand that some things will not be as expected.

I will never forget almost 40 years ago during our first trip to Europe and when we turned onto the St. Germain and and my knees buckled when realized I was in Paris. You do not want to lose that sense of being awestruck.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Funny! A friend of mine is going to Turkey with an organized group. This is what she told me, "I used to be a traveler now I am a tourist". Perhaps the popular perception is that a tourist is someone who travels with groups, or along predictable paths. I am with Fashionista, that is a great analogy
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Jun 27th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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I think a traveler likes to think he/she is not a tourist but much much more.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 02:09 PM
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I see nothing pretentious in Fred Plotkin calling his fantastic book "Italy for the Gourmet Traveller." I think it is INFORMATIVE. Likewise, I think it's unpretentious that Michael Crichton called his book "Travels", and totally pretentious that Rick Steves calls his Italy book "Rick Steves' Italy."

I think the somebody who looks at Monet's Water Lilies for five minutes and wants to move on to the next museum plainly is somebody following a guidebook rather than thinking.

If maitaitom doesn't mind my saying so -- or using language with meaning -- it's a typical American dodge to try to dumb down the English language away from specificity, especially by attacking the idea that it can be used with specifity, to make important distinctions, and dismissing it all as "pretentious" and "elitist" and insisting everybody get into jolly backyard bb-q mode.

I realize a lot of people wince to think they might be tourists -- and maybe they are. But to ask the rest of us to stop thinking or insist we're only kidding ourselves or it is wrong to talk about it -- nope. If you want to be on a thoughtless vacation, fine. But you can't make the rest of us go mentally dead.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 02:31 PM
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"I have a friend who is a traveler. She has been up the Amazon - in a canoe not a river boat - lived in a yurt in Mongolia - and stayed in a lot of small towns around the world without the amenities that I expect (places with limited electricity and hot water). She is also in a position to take extended trip (6 to 8 weeks often) which I just don;t have the time for."

That's my idea of a traveler too. I think almost everyone who goes to Rome or Paris and other major cities and visits museums, etc. are tourists regardless of whether they stay in a hostel or a five star hotel.

I've taken public transportaion and bought food in local markets but until I can "stay in a small town without the amenities" or gone hiking alone in Nepal or India or another remote area, I'll consider myself a tourist.
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