Traveller or Tourist?

22 Mar

After a month of travelling round Mexico we have found ourselves in the habit of spotting “tourists” and “travellers”, but this got me thinking, why is there such a difference between the two and what makes someone a tourist or traveller? And more importantly do we all fit into just one category?

Tourists are generally identified by certain characteristics that even locals seem to easily spot as walking ATMs. The key tell-tale signs we are finding are: first and foremost they travel in packs and usually with a guide, when not out on a tour then they can be seen wearing expensive cameras slung round their necks at the ready for the next shot along with costly sunglasses on their head and usually a baseball cap of some sort. They tend to dress as what I would refer to as fashionable rather than practical, although more and more seem to be investing in technical gear, bought especially for the trip at hand no doubt. They are generally split into two categories, the resort and the see it all in 2 weeks.

So how do travellers differ? From spending time in hostels and ambling through a country rather than racing through, we have come across many types of “travellers”. Although the term still seems to conjure a set image, the short term traveller is one with a backpack slung over their shoulders, a guide book in hand and generally looking for the cheapest places to stay at and to eat in. With only a rough idea of where they are going but with a set return date they have to make.

Long term travellers vary more in age and are probably the closest to modern day hippies. They seem able to generally travel lighter, although there are still some who seem to pack even their kitchen sink – just in case, they are more likely to be found clothed in local and generally colourful attire with matching pendants, possess a laid back attitude, and can be found sustaining themselves through either local work or selling their own handy-crafts to “tourists”, oh, and let’s not forget their very deep tan.

Recently though I am coming across a new breed of traveller, the technological long-term traveller going by the term “digital nomad”. They have a keen interest in travelling for long periods of time, have no real deadline and tend to have left their previous lives behind, at least for now. They also sustain themselves with work, but unlike the other travellers they gain an income from online work. They are generally recognised by the fact that they carry more technology than clothing, yet still travel light, and are often found working in corners of cafes or some other free wi-fi area.

So what does this make us? Is it possible to have traits from each type? Yes, we are long-term travellers with no real deadlines, we also take a lot of photos and walk with a guide book, we sometimes even go on excursions with “tourists”, we also took a netbook with us and I am currently working on this in a café, but do we fit into any one category?

After all, aren’t we all just out to see the world and take a photo of it to share with friends back home?

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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


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