5 Ways to Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist, On Your Next Trip

Traveler or Tourist? These words are separated by more than gift shops and selfie sticks. While they may be synonyms in the dictionary, those terms carry strikingly different meanings and ways of experiencing the world. So how exactly do you earn the classification of a traveler and not a tourist on your next trip?

1. Study up and research beforehand

There is often a steep learning curve for both the traveler and the tourist when visiting a new country. However, a wise traveler will be prepared for this influx of unfamiliar culture before they step off the airplane, train or boat. With the internet in the palm of our hands, there are many ways to research a foreign country before a big trip, from travel blogs to news articles. You might even find a relevant Netflix documentary to watch one night before the trip with some carry-out food and a bottle of wine. You don’t have to feel like your writing a 10 page paper for your college history class when researching a country. With podcasts, books, and films from all across the world, there’s no excuse not to study up before your next trip.

2. Talk to the locals

If your best friend from another city came to visit your hometown, where would you take them? Is it anywhere they would’ve known to go on their own? Chances are your experience living in that town gives you a unique insight into the best restaurants, attractions, and shops that your friend never considered checking out. This same concept applies when you are the out-of-town visitor. Even if you don’t know any locals before your trip, chat up a few people on the bus, in a bar or at a coffee shop and you’ll find plenty of residents eager to share what they love about their city. You’ll learn about the most authentic restaurants, most beautiful parks and maybe even make a friend or two along the way. 

3. Skip out on those popular tourist sites

The Louvre, Colosseum, Big Ben – there’s a reason these sites are so popular amongst visitors. They offer a unique beauty and taste of that city’s culture and history. However, you can skip visiting those famous tourist attractions and still gain rich, memorable experiences while you travel. In your research before your trip, read about the sites that you won’t find in the average tourist’s guidebook. Explore the beautiful architecture of those centuries-old cities, check out the incredible art pieces in local museums, and shop the charming boutiques on each downtown street. Pick your daily destinations based on your own interests, not on what’s considered popular and expected by tourists.

4. Be flexible; don’t be dictated by your schedule

Whether it’s a weekend trip or a month-long getaway, one key distinguishing factor between a traveler and tourist is their schedules or lack-thereof. Some people are planners, and that’s perfectly okay when traveling. However, don’t pack your schedule so tight with destinations and dates that you miss out on unexpected opportunities. When visiting a new location, it’s impossible to know everything you will and won’t end up wanting to see or do. Maybe someone at breakfast tells you about a parade in the next town over that afternoon. Or perhaps you stumble on the best lunch cafe and sit for a couple hours eating delicious food and watching the foot traffic. Don’t be so attached to your itinerary that you pass up on memorable experiences or find yourself exhausted and rushed by the end of the trip.

5. Break through the language barrier

No, you don’t need to become fluent in five new languages by the end of your Meditteranean Cruise. However, learning a few key phrases in the local language will not only help you when you really need a bathroom but also gives you a chance to truly connect with the culture around you. Also, it shows the citizens of the area that you’re making an effort to meet them in the middle of the language barrier.  This small gesture of respect for the local culture is a key distinguishing factor between a traveler and a tourist. And when you return home, you can impress your friends and family with your expanded vocabulary.

Following these tips will help you avoid the tourist mindset and gain invaluable memories along the way no matter where you travel to next. Have other advice on how to be a traveler instead of a tourist? Share them with us on our Facebook Page!

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Thomas Hogan Vacations is the premier travel agency in Myrtle Beach with over 35 years in business, specializing in personalized travel experiences. Thomas Hogan offers travel destinations which includes a Spain & Portugal escapade, a cruise to Alaska, a Northern European cruise, a trip to Rome & Greek Isles, a Panama Canal Cruise, a cruise to the Southern Caribbean and a tour of Northern Italy. Custom vacation packages include roundtrip airfare, lodging & accommodations, dining, transportation and more. Thomas Hogan offers vacation packages for couples, groups or individual travel. Thomas Hogan Vacations is affiliated with Travel Leaders which gives us the best global travel contacts. Thomas Hogan's corporate office is located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.