Traveller or Tourist?

Traveller or tourist? Is there a difference?

I’m pretty sure there is. When I’m winging it in a country where I don’t speak the language and I haven’t run into another native English speaker for two days, I’m pretty sure I qualify as a traveller. When I step off a cruise ship into a waiting port in a developing country – I’m definitely a tourist. Lots of grey area in between…

When I’m a traveller, I am more likely to meet the locals and dig under the surface and discover a thing or two. As a tourist, the locals see me as someone with $$$ to spend and while they are generally very nice about it, they are primarily intereste in separating me from my money.

I’m not snooty about either – I love unpredictability and roughing it to a certain extent (though I must have my own toilet and shower facilities.) But there’s something to be said for luxurious accommodation and well organised visits to a place. I wish I had been more adventurous in China – I did a tour and it drove me mad. But Cartegena Colombia was a one-day port on my cruise through the Panama Canal and I was perfectly happy to play tourist for a day.

Ferociously hot, we decided to keep the itinerary easy – visit the Museum of the Inquisition (chilling) and the San Pedro Claver Cathedral (magically mystical) and wander around the old town and get some lunch. Nice. And slow.

In the park in the middle of town, we discovered several Vibrant Colombian ladies, dressed up in “traditional” costume with enormous fruit bowls on their heads. They were there to have their photo taken with us, for $2.00US. They were quite unhappy if anyone tried to snap a shot without paying, but all too happy to pose as if they were your best friend if you did.

What a dilemma! I do have standards and paying a woman to pose like this just goes against everything a serious photographer is looking for. But I’m as big a sucker as the next person I suppose since I took this photo. If it’s a badge of shame, so be it. I don’t think of it as a depiction of traditional costume – more of a record of the ladies in the park. And she was lovely – once we forked over the $2.00.

Published by Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

5 thoughts on “Traveller or Tourist?

  1. Digital cameras have surely helped the bulge of the bankroll. However, if I had little choice for making a living and had to feed babies, I’d probably be a little cranky toward the perceived “takers”, too.


  2. That’s why I don’t really mind forking over the $2… And the reality is – when I show up as a bog standard tourist, I am a taker, too. The only thing I can possible give them is my money

    I am a great bargainer – a skill I was born with – can bargain pretty much anyone down to selling me something for next to nothing. And sometimes and some places, it’s the most marvellous skill to have – the markets in Beijing or New York leap to mind.

    But then there are times when it is kind of awful – when I am buying something from a very poor vendor and that game of skill and wits that is fun for me and saves me a few dollars I don’t need makes the difference in how well they will eat that day… I still have my fun and bargain them down to how little I can pay. But when I am done and paying, I slip a few dollars in their hand ‘for them.’ I think we both walk away happy…


  3. Think of it this way: Your $2 really helped that woman; it’s a lovely shot even if posed, and it has a little tale behind it.

    I’m impressed that you went to Cartegena. Something about that place–even though it is beautiful–still scares me. Too many bad stories.

    As to traveler versus tourist: I would love to be more of a traveler. I always fancied myself backpacking across Europe, staying in hostels. Thought about joining the Peace Corps after college. I did none of it and still regret it to this day, so I have been relegated to tourist…for now, anyway.


  4. In Cartegena I definitely just wanted to be a tourist and stay in the ‘safe’ areas. Of course those areas are probably the most likely to have your wallet stolen or be scammed – but you’re not likely to get involved in anything terribly unsavoury.

    I wanted to do the same when I was young, but ended up getting married and having my first child at 23. I felt so robbed, especially as my two sisters didn’t have children and went to Europe nearly every year.

    I am making up for it now and do a mix – sometimes tourist, sometimes traveler. I am off to Malaysia for two week in May – apart from the suitcase full of camera and computer gear – we’ll be roughing it – in 3 star hotels… ha ha…


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