Travelers vs Tourists: Why I am SO SICK of this Debate

I do not rant on my blog.  I try to always keep things upbeat, positive, and hopefully, inspirational.  But I feel the desperate need to weigh on in this subject - the silly debate between what makes a tourist and what makes a traveler.  I have read about it on several blogs, seen people comment on Twitter, and even heard about it on television via travel shows and channels. So many backpackers and 'new nomads' bragging about selling their home, staying in hostels and cheap hotels, 'getting down' with the culture, making fun of people who do quick trips, stay in resorts, and visit the standard sights a location has to offer.  People who claim to be 'travelers' and not 'tourists', as if being a tourist was a disgraceful occupation. People who believe that because they do things differently, they are a superior breed of explorers.  Usually I just ignore these people.

Recently the proverbial straw broke the camel's back, and now I have something to say.

I personally have no immediate travel plans, what with a seven week old baby on my hands.  But recently Avy, my wee daughter, and I have been researching a trip to Paris, just because.  Mostly it is Avy's fault - that girl has a severe case of wanderlust.  It's exhausting, really.  Maybe a trip to Paris for her third birthday will calm that girl down.

The beautiful Eiffel Tower - worth at least one visit in your lifetime.

Anyway, we have been watching clips on YouTube of things to see and do in Paris, beyond the obvious, and we stumbled upon Anthony Bourdain in "The Layover" discussing his take on Paris.  And I snapped.  He is just the type of person I am talking about in my introductory paragraph - in this episode he literally sat there and made fun of people who choose to stand in line to go up the Eiffel Tower to see the amazing view of Paris it has to offer. He also recommended people "walk past" Notre Dame Cathedral, yet ignore the history to be found inside because the line-up was inconvenient and oh-so-mundane.  He instead told potential visitors to Paris to find a nice restaurant, sit and get drunk, and then have sex with a "French person".  His words.

The majestic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

My first rant is aimed directly at Anthony Bourdain.  How dare you, Anthony Bourdain?!  You, who are sitting in Paris FOR FREE because you are on a travel show, bashing some of Paris' most beloved landmarks.  You, who have probably been to Paris 50 times, for free, and have probably already been up the Eiffel Tower and combed through Notre Dame.  It's no big deal for you to tell people to waste $3000 for a flight and hotel just to sit around and get bombed on a street corner.  I'm sure people can't do that at home for much cheaper.  I'm sure I would love to sit on an eight-hour flight to another continent just to chase around some Parisian 'tail'.  Anthony Bourdain thinks he is a TRAVELER - he gets to travel all the time, he's a seasoned veteran, he knows the ropes... but honestly, I think he is a just a cocky, spoiled travel snob and I sincerely hope no one actually takes his travel 'advice' seriously.

That's right, Bourdain. Eat your noodles, and I'll go see what a city has to offer beyond a hangover in the morning.

When I take Avy to Paris, and I will someday, we are standing in line for the Eiffel Tower elevator, we are exploring the Notre Dame catacombs, we will take the Seine boat tour... and we'll be happy and proud to do so.  And here's the thing - that makes us both travelers AND tourists.

There is no distinction.  To all you travel snobs out there touting your badge as "TRAVELER" and bashing tourists - give it up.  Of course, there are those people who fly all the way to a destination, then never leave their hotel, eat food at the buffet from their home country, and are generally rude and obnoxious.  Those aren't "tourists" - they're just close-minded vacationers.  They came to that destination for the temperature change, and whatever.  More power to them. Despite their strange behavior, they are STILL both travelers and tourists.  They're just bad ones.

Here is what a traveler is: someone who travels.  Here is what a tourist is: someone who is new to an area and is experiencing it for the first time (or second or third).  Therefore, if you are in a new location during your travels, you are still a tourist. Do you have a home in that location? No? You are a tourist.  Do you pay taxes, hold a job, have a kid in a local school, speak the language fluently, have childhood memories of growing up there, or have family buried in the local cemetery? No? Then dang, you must be a tourist.  You got there on your TRAVELS, but you are a TOURIST, no matter your choice of hotel or transportation or size of suitcase or state of cleanliness.

Really? Because every blog I've been to where people claim to be 'travelers' is LOADED with pictures.

I won't belabor this point anymore.  I just had to put it out there.  I'm sick of people acting superior and labeling themselves travelers - just stop.  No one cares but you.  Get over yourself, ignore Bourdain, and go stand in line to see something spectacular if that's what you want to do.  It's lined up for a reason.


  1. Very well said! I've seen so many posts distinguishing travellers and tourists too and it's disappointing to see the number of travel snobs rising. I think everyone just has their own way of traveling and people should just respect that--they have their own way and preference of understanding culture and history... more so, experiencing the place.

    1. Amen! Isn't traveling supposed to be about becoming more open-minded? Travelers who use labels like this to look down on others are complete hypocrites... I love that you understand what I'm trying to say! :)

  2. Well written, you've helped open my eyes. I'm totally guilty of this bad behavior, and happy to say that I will knock it off at once. My friends don't have the same adventurous approach to travel that I have, but that's no reason to criticize them. All of us enjoy going places, and it seems that we just do it differently depending on how much experience we have. Thank you for helping me re-think this. Safe and happy travels to you!

    1. Glad you are so open-minded! Happy travels to everyone, right? 😃