6 Ways To Be A Traveller, Not A Tourist

We’ve all witnessed them in action, spilling off of massive busses, fanny packs in place, then snapping a few photos before hopping back on and heading to their next major site. Yep, you guessed it, we’re talking about the dreaded tourist. While this may be something of a stereotype, if you travel often you know that there are indeed huge differences between tourists and travellers. You definitely should want to be a traveller, and here are a few tips to help you look like a suave explorer and not a bumbling tourist!

Photo via Flickr

1. Do your research

When you visit another country you are visiting someone else’s home. And no one likes it when outsiders come into their home and disrespect it or act like fools. You don’t have to do in-depth research, after all a big part of travelling is learning along the way, but make sure you have a good idea of the most important customs of the country you’re headed to. You’ll have a better time and avoid running the risk of offending the locals.

2. Tailor your trip

A tourist goes to a new location to see what they think they’re supposed to see, a traveller goes to have an experience that fits in with their own passions. Don’t rush from one big tourist site to the next snapping photos just so you can say you’ve been there, instead find activities that are in sync with what you love. If you love history, head to the museum, if you’re a foodie, plan you’re trip around discovering the best morsels in town. Isn’t it better to have a real and lasting experience instead of crowding in with thousands of other tourists to look at a painting, simply because everyone else is doing it?

Photo via Flickr

3. Dress like a local

Hopefully during your research phase you’ll learn about what sort of clothes locals wear and put it into practice. If you walk around India in shorts and a tank top you will stand out right away as a tourist. You may still stand out if you’re wearing a kurta, but people are more likely to think you know what you’re doing and it’s less probable you’ll to be subjected to stares or scams. It’s also important to respect local customs, which can mean dressing a certain way so as not to offend.

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4. Ask before you snap

This is a huge one that can often be learned only with experience: don’t take a photograph of anyone without asking them first. There are many cultures that don’t appreciate being photographed, and, even if it’s culturally okay, some people might find it weird or rude. I’ve had my photo snapped without my permission and I speak from experience when I say it’s an uncomfortable and at times icky feeling to imagine a stranger having a photo of you. You’ve got nothing to lose by asking first!

Photo via Flickr

5. Get lost

Letting your trip be defined by how many top sites you can jam into a single day will leave you exhausted and at the end it will all seem like a blur. How about taking time to get lost or leave the beaten track in the country you’re visiting? I personally love wandering on foot without any particular itinerary in mind. Doing this has given me some of the most lasting, and interesting, experiences of my life. Like the time I came upon a Taiwanese family having a barbecue in the mountains and they had me sing karaoke before inviting me to eat with them. If I’d stuck to the main attractions I would have missed out on a truly great experience!

6. Be impulsive

While it’s good to have a goal at the end of your journey, be open to changing the way you get there. Maybe that means spending an extra day in a small French village you’ve fallen in love with, or detouring to see a beautiful isolated beach in Thailand. It can also mean trying new things along the way, whether it be strange food, foreign customs, or even a new language! Look at your journey as a flexible thing which can evolve and change each and every day.

What are some of the things you do when you travel that you think makes you a traveller and not a tourist?