At itrek we believe there’s a big difference between being a traveller and a tourist. A tourist to us is someone who only goes to the popular locations with their camera in one hand and their guidebook and map in the other. They often stick to group tours and stay in luxury hotels after a hard day of seeing the obvious attractions. They occasionally go a bit crazy and sample a few of the local delicacies like Peking duck in China, but would never try crickets in Thailand or Guinea Pig in Peru. They take novelty photos of themselves ”leaning“ against the leaning tower of Pisa and would never bother to learn any of the local languages. Everywhere people speak English right?
A traveller is someone who wants to experience the culture of the country and avoids the popular spots at all costs. They’ll go to Slovenia rather than Spain. They try new things, meet new people and look beyond what’s in front of them. They’re spontaneous, preferring to just go where their adventure takes them rather than planning each step. They talk to the locals in their own language to find the lesser known haunts and if they’re not sharing a room in a hostel, they’re camping or crashing on the couch of a local they’ve just met. They take artistic photos of people and food to keep in their journal or put on their online blog. And Fermented herring in Sweden? Delicious!
Hey, if being a tourist is more your jam we’re not judging. It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone and that’s cool, we just prefer the road less travelled ourselves. But if you’re sitting on the fence and not sure what it takes to be a traveller we’ve outlined certain things they do that set them apart from a tourist. If you find yourself doing the following than perhaps you have the traveller gene after all.
You take off solo. It’s nice to share your travels with someone, but you’re also fine with your own company. Besides, travelling unaccompanied allows you to really challenge yourself. There’s nothing more liberating than experiencing your surroundings completely unfiltered from somebody else’s prejudices. The exciting part is you get to do whatever the hell you like and go anywhere you want without having to consider anyone else in this travel equation. It’s not like you’ll be lonely for too long anyway - you never have trouble meeting people, isn’t that what shared hostels are for?
You daydream about travel all the time. You’re always checking out best prices on flights and what hostel you’ll be staying. You learn key phrases such as ”hello“, ”thankyou“ and ”I’m lost“ in the local language. It’s always better to be fantasising about travel, even if it’s completely out of reach at the time. How else are you supposed to get through each day at your nine to five job?
You’re always budgeting to save cash just in case. You never know when there’s going to be a sale on flights to Split, Croatia and you’d kick yourself if you missed out. You subscribe to all the email updates from airlines and maybe you’ll buy your next holiday on a whim for a good price from one of these offers. So what if you’ve never heard of Antigua, Guatemala?! That’s all part of the fun anyway!
You’ve mastered the art of packing. You can pack for a month in Europe in less than ten minutes. Three weeks in Asia? No worries. In fact, you’re the first person your friends and family call for advice or even an intervention to stop them packing that fourth pair of jeans.
Your passport is your most prized possession. You protect it with your life. You could never risk having to wait two weeks to replace it if anything were to happen to it, so you’ve got it locked safely away at all times. You shake your head at people that take it out to pubs to use as identification, what irresponsible humans. Alcohol and Passports do not mix.
You eat local. You would never consider going to Mcdonalds, KFC or Pizza Hut in any of the places you’re visiting, no matter how big the hangover! In fact you’re more likely to take a cooking course while you’re there so you can recreate that amazing Maharashtrian from Mumbai when you get home… If you wanted to eat vegemite on toast every day you would have stayed in Australia. You’ve no qualms about sampling all the delights the country has to offer even if they are a bit obscure. Honestly, the fried tarantulas in Cambodia weren’t nearly as horrible as they sound. Promise!
You make it your job. You love travelling so much you’ve managed to base your career around it. Whether you became a photographer, a writer, a tour guide, a vet, nurse - anything that allows you to travel and get paid for it. Even if you don’t get paid you’ll probably still volunteer in an orphanage in Kenya or at a turtle conservatory in Peru. Why? Because you’re a traveller, not a tourist that’s why.