Are you a Traveler or a Tourist?
By traveling the world, people have an opportunity to make a difference, to break down firm barriers, positively influence other communities and, of course, change themselves. If you come back from your journey feeling nothing inside of you has been altered, you probably are doing it wrong.
Most people use words “traveler” and “tourist” interchangeably, but these titles can have rather different implications. Tourists are more concerned with visiting all the popular destinations and taking a lot of photos to have a proof of being somewhere. On the other hand, travelers want to avoid the popular spots and experience and get to know another culture as much as possible. If you’d like to be a traveler and not a tourist, I have some tips and tricks for you!
Be spontaneous. Tourists make plans, travelers change plans. Of course, there are some things that should be planned in advance, such as flight times and, sometimes, accommodation bookings. However, make sure you leave enough room to be able to act freely and spontaneously while on your journey.
Don’t stereotype your journeys. If you try to squeeze every “don’t miss” sight in a short time, you’ll miss even more! Cities, regions and countries always have more to offer than tourist agents recommend. Also, look outside the box or, in this situation, outside the main tourist tracks.
Spend time with the locals whenever you can. By this I mean interacting with locals on a bus, in a restaurant or while relaxing in a park. Don’t avoid the elders, since they are even better sources for helping travelers experience and understand the culture and history of the city or region they’re visiting. But, be open to actually becoming friends with people you’re spending your time with. Locals like when travelers are interested in learning their language, and even if you learn to say only “hi” or “thanks”, they’ll appreciate your effort.
Use public transport. My boyfriend does this whenever we travel somewhere. No matter if our accommodation is in the city center, he insists on using public transport. At first, I thought the idea was stupid (you use public transport only when it’s necessary, don’t you?), but soon enough realized he had a point. Getting on a bus costs little and yet it’s a good way to meet people, immerse in everyday life and see the place in its true colors.
Use local hospitality and accommodations. When it comes to the accommodation, do you really need to stay in an expensive 5 star hotel that looks the same as anywhere else on the globe? B&Bs, small family owned hotels or renting a room in someone’s home are usually better options. Of course, if you’re traveling for several weeks, it’s alright if you want to sleep and rest properly and you need time for yourself only. In that case, spending a few nights in the 5 star hotel you know well isn’t a crime, of course!
Finally, make use of the new and upcoming technology boom! I recently came across a very cool app and a website called Xeniapp. They instantly connect travelers with locals based on your geo-location, budget and preferences who would love to show you around the city and make the experience personalized with no advance booking required. You can also show around your city to travelers by becoming a Xenian. It seems like a great way to meet the locals and experience their culture with them. You will become more of a traveler and less of a tourist!