How to be a Traveller, NOT a Tourist

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Let’s get the record straight. Travellers and tourists are NOT the same thing! I try to make this case to friends and family just to be met by laughter. Sure I stick out like a sore thumb anywhere I go. Maybe it’s because I look hopelessly lost, or because I totally mess up the locals customs when I try to join in. But that’s the thing!

The traveller and tourist have very different priorities. Not to mention that travelling is just way more fun! Nobody likes to be around massive crowds, and having to elbow past people or wait in line for your turn.

If you truly want to get the most out of your travel, you need to be ambitious, willing to try new things and to take on any challenge that comes your way. It will make for the most rewarding experiences in your life, and worth every bruise along the way.

To get there, you need to understand these four core principles for how to be a traveller, and NOT a Tourist

Traveller’s look for adventure

I’m not much of a hiker, but I’m willing to try.

That’s is what it’s all about!

There is a great quote from travel writer Paul Theroux where he says, “tourists don’t know where they’ve been, and travellers don’t know where they are going.”

Tourists only see one side of the coin, and a very well-polished side at that. Organized vacations won’t give you much opportunity to stray off the path. However, when you strap on your backpack you are free to do whatever you want.

It’s like you’re a little kid again. Haplessly follow your desire to see what is just around the corner because, well, who knows! It could be amazing, entertaining, disgusting, peaceful, or simply special. Keep exploring for the love of it.

Always exploring and always eating!

That is why we always preach DIY travel. Most tours that are offered can be easily done on your own for much cheaper. Some quick research or asking around and BAM! A super radical adventure awaits! 

You can read as many blogs and write as many itineraries as you want, but you will never know what the adventure beholds until you get there.

It sounds a little daunting at first, I know. All you need is a traveller’s mindset.

If you are willing to keep your plans open and be opportunistic you will see the country unfiltered- what makes it beautiful, and different from anywhere else. It’s in the nitty-gritty where you will find the diamonds, and that’s the effort that sets travellers apart from tourists.

Now, this is a two-way street we are travelling down…

Traveller’s Know that Travel is Not Always Easy

It’s true. Travel is not for everyone.

Staying on a resort, or paying for a package tour takes all the difficulty out of travel by doing it for you. It’s worry-free, luxurious, and you simply ride along. But where is the fun in that? We want to be travellers after all!

When there is exploring to be done, that usually means you won’t be getting all of your beauty sleep. Carrying around a big backpack for days on end is never easy, and you will be a little smellier than you would like.

Not to mention there will always be a level of uncertainty you can not account for. You just never know when you will be stranded in a god-forsaken bus stop town, or when your dinner will start coming out both ends.

Don’t you love it when your bus leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere?

When you think about it, that’s life. Sh*t happens.

That funny travel bug has a twisted way of getting you to enjoy these hiccups. They become a part of the big adventure you sought out in the first place. More often than not your rough times on the road will be your favourite stories to tell as you claim your place as coolest person in the bar. So when you’re plans go in the gutter, smile! The adventure is only getting started.

Traveller’s Are Looking for a Deeper Experience

If you have ever dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu or the Great Wall, picture hundreds of tourists being there with you. Not exactly how you imagined it, is it? We experienced this first hand when visiting the Sahara Desert in Morocco which was essentially a series of quick photo stops for corralled sheep. You can read all about our Sahara trip here

Do not forget that there is a lot more to a country than what’s outlined in the highlights section of your travel guide.

If your goal is to get wrapped up in the cultural traditions, or have a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will terrify your mother, you have to go off-the-beaten path.

These are the kinds of experiences you hear off-the-cuff from some guy in the bar, or a tall-tale from another backpacker who has just returned themselves. When these opportunities come around listen carefully, you won’t want to pass them up.

It’s moments like these that remind me how beautiful this world is.

Taking the time to get to know a place, just like you would another person, will help you connect with your travels on a whole new level. It’s like experiencing the feeling of falling in love, over, and over again. And who knows. Maybe you will learn a thing or two about yourself.

Every adventure will place a little mark on you, so make sure you leave behind a good one in return.

Travellers Can Make a Positive Impact

You have more power to change the course of tourism than you think.

Too many times have the natural wonders or rich traditions of a country been exploited by the overwhelming demands of tourism. Even worse is that few of the benefits are shared with the people who are impacted the most.

As a traveller, you can choose where you spend your money by going to the mom-and-pop restaurant down the street, or hiring a local guide instead. Workaways and Airbnb are seriously the best travel inventions since sliced bread. Help your host pay for their rent, or trade some elbow grease for a comfy bed. Small actions like these can make a big impact in someone’s life.

Our amazing homestay in Salento, Colombia with Alberto and his family.

If you are going to book a tour or excursion do some research on the company’s practices. See if they are eco-friendly operations, offer employees competitive wages, or support local initiatives as a way of giving back.

There is one simple secret, that really shouldn’t be one but has made our travels a lot easier. BE KIND. By simply showing you are a curious person who is interested in the stories, and lives of others, PEOPLE WILL APPRECIATE YOU! Making positive connections is important for not only your adventures but for the travellers to come after you.

Travel to make the world a brighter place!


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Thank you for sticking around and reading our post. If you have any other tips for fellow travellers we would love to hear from you in the comments below! For more stories and photos from our adventures make sure you check out our Instagram and Facebook pages @brightintheworld


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