For many, the words tourist and traveler are often used interchangeably. It’s not hard to see why – the lines blur a little when it comes to defining the differences. However, to those in the travel community, each word brings a different implication. A traveler, for example, seeks out the unknown and the unfamiliar. They do whatever it takes to immerse themselves into whichever culture they’ve visited. Tourists usually stay in their comfort zones, stick to major cities and enjoy amenities that rival their own.
Being a traveler is far more challenging, both emotionally and physically, especially if you’re accustomed to trips as a tourist. However, it’s much more rewarding – and teaches you more about the culture, the world, and ultimately, yourself.
So how do you grow from a tourist to a traveler? To start, you need toss that guidebook away, choose a hotel a little off the beaten path and opt for any activity that’ll put you in the center of the local’s way of life. And secondly? You need to follow these tips, collected from the world’s most daring and thoughtful travelers.
Try Something New
No matter where you go, sample something new. That means eating a deep fried tarantula in Cambodia or noshing on a Dosa in India. Step outside of your comfort zone and be wowed by local favorites.
Rent a Camera Lens
Even if you’re not a skilled photographer, a new lens can go a long way in capturing some incredible images from your vacation. If you’re heading to a bustling city, rent a portrait lens so you can capture the locals. If you’re embarking on a river cruise or a safari, invest in a telephoto lens so you can photograph the wildlife in far more detail. And if you want to go a cheaper route, you can always buy slick editing apps to help upgrade your smartphone camera.
Know the Lingo
Learn a few key phrases in the country’s language. Even though you may not be able to hold a conversation, a few words can go along way, especially in haggling prices and asking questions. Most locals will appreciate your willingness to try and may offer some helpful pronunciation tips.
Spend more time chatting with locals. They may offer up some cool insider tips not known to most tourists.
Be Patient and Humble
Never disrespect a place or a culture because it differs from the one you live in. Instead, ask questions and learn. Use those differences and those eye-opening moments to inspire change. For example, most popular restaurants in the U.S. are quick about giving you the check to shuffle you out to seat waiting customers. In some countries, going to a restaurant is about socializing just as much as the dining experience. And waiters aren’t quick about bringing the check unless you ask for it. So chill! Spend more time chatting with your dinner companions or, if nice enough, the locals sitting nearby. They may offer up some cool insider tips not known to most tourists.
Carry Local Currency
One mistake many western travelers make is they assume wherever they go will accept plastic credit cards. While many countries do, more don’t. Plan ahead by always carrying at least $50 – $100 worth of local currency, so you have no problems getting around or eating. It’ll also help those plans for a fun late-night bar crawl go down easier when you’re not constantly searching for a ATM to withdraw cash.
Even if you’re planning on staying in one hotel or on one ship, leave enough room in your suitcase to bring home gifts from the road. Whether it’s something smaller, like a sari from Mumbai, or something larger, like a rug from Marrakech. You won’t have to stress about added bag fees. Just remember the amount of clothes and shoes you pack can determine if you have enough space for those elaborate souvenirs for the fam or besties.
Go on an Escorted Tour
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in a culture than with an escorted tour. Each excursion is led by a local guide, which gives you unique insight into what makes that place special. Plus, these guides help break down language barriers, making it much easier to communicate with the locals. Not only this, but escorted tours often give you more time in each place, giving you a chance to see more of the city or country’s hidden gems, like booking a Black Paris Tour to see their influence in Parisian traditions and culture.
No matter where you go and why, you should pack a traveler’s mentality on your next vacay to ensure that your trip isn’t just meaningful, but life-changing and immersive.