Food for thought: How NOT to be a tourist

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of that G.K. Chesterton quote. You know, the one about not being a tourist but a traveller? 

Well, as it so happens, more people than I would have expected are uncertain about the distinction between the two parties. Thus, I give you-

Travel 101: Introduction to being a traveller, and not a tourist

So, you remember how last time I said a traveller leaves behind the familiar to expand their comfort zone, semi- chick-flick style? Well, a tourist is someone who tries to maintain their comfort zone best they can- they’ll know next to nothing about the place their visiting, they’re terrified of getting lost, and they’ll seek out foods their familiar with rather than try local eats.

Traveller: Walks around a city, spots a coffee vendor settles down for a cuppa Java. Might not have enjoyed it, but they tried it nonetheless.

Tourist: Where’s the nearest Starbucks? 

Traveller: Asante sana / merci / gracias / danke / grazie / how do you say ‘thank you’ in Malay? (Whatever the language, they’ll make an effort)

Tourist: Thanks.

Traveller: Takes home a memento. Ex. I found this shell on the beach near the bar.

Tourist: Takes home a souvenir.

Traveller: Has a backpack, a map, a guidebook, and a camera, and is all set.

Tourist: Books bus tour, never leaves bus.

Traveller (upon return): We just came back from Sri Lanka, did you know Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia?

Tourist: We just came back from Sri Lanka, the hotel was lovely- worked up a good tan by the beach. (OK, so I exaggerated a bit, but I guarantee that the tourist will know way less about SL compared to their more adventurous counterpart).

Traveller: Look! Rickshaws! Let’s take one of those to Old Fort.

Tourist: Can you please have the concierge arrange an air-conditioned car? I’d like to do some sightseeing… whatever’s popular.

Traveller: Talks to, and makes friends with local people, gets insider info on hole-in-the-wall-cafés, hidden lookout points etc. etc.

Tourist: Avoids local people unless lost, checks into ‘Starbucks Helsinki*’ on Facebook, and Instagrams a photo of their grande, non-fat, triple shot, caramel macchiato**.

Bottomline: Life is too short to play it safe all the time.

Travellers make an effort– be it to learn about the place their visiting, to meet people, take photos, or try new things. They’re alright with not knowing which way to go, and what to see.

You know that cheesy quote? The one about the journey being the destination, by Dan Eldon, I mean. Think about it the next time you find yourself in a foreign city, Google-mapping your route to the closest Burger King.

* Yes, there’s only one in Helsinki, apart from the one at the airport.

** A macchiato is supposed to be a shot of espresso with some milk foam over it. What you get at Starbucks tastes like melted ice cream with extra syrup. Just don’t drink it, OK? Drink real coffee. Thanks. Or do, your call. I’m trying this no-judgement thing… clearly it’s going well.

If you liked this post, drop me a comment, if you didn’t like it definitely drop me a comment, and if you really loved it, like it, share it, or tell your grandmother about it. 


Author: Akanksha Singh

Twenty-something travel addict || Likes: coffee, sarcasm, the Oxford comma, blue skies, and cobblestone roads. || Dislikes: rudeness, carrots, and pigeons (read: winged-rats with satanic eyes).

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