In Defense of Being A Tourist (Not a #Traveler)

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

I may be in the minority here, but I think the word "tourist" gets a bad reputation. In fact, I find the word "traveler" to be a bit condescending, cliched, and rife with privilege. Bear with me here for a few minutes, and I'll tell you why.

I've noticed a trend among bloggers, instagramers, and regular ol' millennials alike- we are so afraid of calling ourselves tourists. Instead, we are "travelers" who go off the beaten trail, interacting with locals, supposedly under the radar, until we head back home to inundate our friends newsfeeds with tales from our gap years and semesters abroad. 

Now the problem here is maybe just the language we use. "Tourist" has a negative connotation, implying a lack of education, culture, or originality. Tourists are the sweaty, luggage-toting, Americans who touch down in a foreign land for a short period of time to only stake out the most overcrowded sites and restaurants. 

"Traveler," as this generation sees it, is a word that implies a certain grade of sophistication. A traveler is someone who seeks out the "best" experiences, the most "unique" flavors, and the most pleasing aesthetic. But they are also the people who refuse to go on walking tours or wear sneakers out of fear of "looking like a tourist."  

But perhaps this search is truly vapid. This mindset focuses far too much on being different, that people are so caught up in themselves to even experience the world around them. In a word, this "traveler" mindset is selfish. 

Essentially, what these "travelers" fear the most is that they'll stick out as a foreigner. But the truth is, travelers are foreign, and that fact is inextricable. We need to accept that we are foreign, as Robert Louis Stevenson says, in order to fully appreciate the unfamiliar territory that we have stepped foot in. 

While travelers may tend to stray away from the most popular sites in the worlds most famous cities (the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris), there is a reason these sites are so popular. And that is simply because they are important. And by avoiding these monuments altogether because of the "touristy" nature of them, you are missing out on a crucial piece of that culture's history.

In the end, the reason why traveling is so important is not because of what it does for ourselves (and our instagram feeds), but rather what it does for the local economy. And I think this is what we tend to forget when we visit other countries.

Travel can (and should) be a humbling experience- one where you realize how vast the world really is, and what a tiny part we make up of it. When traveling, know that you don't know- you can't possibly be an expert on a country you've never been to. And, most importantly, always travel with respect to the place in which you are a guest.

So travel like a tourist- take in the famous sites, use your guidebook and map, and be ready and willing to learn about another culture. And don't be afraid of being a tourist either. Because whether you're backpacking across South East Asia or riding a gondola in Venice, you inevitably are one!  


  1. Love this post - I agree with you completely, and in fact, it can be easy to feel "guilty" as such for being a Tourist, when why the hell should we! I love being a tourist. I love visiting famous sights and seeing them for myself. Great post, thank you for sharing!!

    Suitcase and Sandals Blog XX

    1. Thank you so much Hannah! I'm so pleased you liked it and could relate to it :) I'm with you on loving being a tourist! It's nothing to be ashamed of.

      Leda xx


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