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Do you mind being a tourist?

Do you mind being a tourist?
12 years ago, June 14th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #38566  
N Posts: 4
Ok, may seem like an odd question, but I have just come back from Quatier Habbous, the local 'nic nac' market in Casablanca - (unfortuantely the item I went for is not for sale elsewhere at such a good price!).

Now obviously I'm not a tourist because I live here, but it got me thinking how much I hate it when everyone assumes that you are. Even when I am a tourist.....I never think of myself as such. I don't recall ever having taken a package holiday. We usually look to go slightly off the beaten track.

However there I was in Habbous today, and there was such a happy group of Japanese tourists. Really happy, giggling away at some purchase..and they had great big plastic signs around their necks identifying them as part of an organised group.

So it made me wonder, is it just me. Why do I object to being a tourist? Or is it a British thing? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 14th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #38587  
Hello Lolly 😊

Not an odd question at all, nor is it specifically a British thing. In fact it is a topic I have seen discussed on my travel fora.

I think many backpackers who went out there and learned to overcome the challanges of adversity and make an effort to get along with all kinds of people like to have this recognised. Being on a tour puts a protective shell around those on the tour which we as independent travellers have chosen to break out of . Quite and achievement in my opinion.

Although I dont go on tours, I dont mind when people call me a tourist. I do try to achieve the expat look when travelling and often do so quite successfully, but I realise that I am not like the locals and am difficult for them to classify. I suppose we are all foreigners to them. Many of them have not had an opportunity to leave their own country and likely dont know the difference between a backpacker and an independent traveler.

Mel Reply to this

12 years ago, June 15th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #38603  
B Posts: 11.5K
I agree with Mel about it not being specifically a British thing, though culture can play a part in it. Take your example of the Japanese tourists, in Japan things are far more group oriented - many people probably wouldn't consider independent travel. Since living here I've been overseas a few times (Thailand, UK, home to NZ) and people have been surprised to find out that I went on my own.

Personality also is a big factor. some people may not be confident to travel on their own. Ironically, independent travel is a big confidence booster imho.

One thing that does annoy me sometimes if I'm in a shop/train station/etc in a big city here and speak to them in Japanese (and I know they've understood me perfectly) but they reply in English.

Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #38711  
We don't mind being called tourists, because essentially that's what we are! There are different ways to travel though, some people are more comfortable doing the group thing, others need more space and freedom, and our opinion is that what matters most is that they're just getting out there and seeing the world!

What really, really annoys us though, is the whole backpacker culture of "competition". It's unbelievably irritating when we come accross other travellers who seem to be out to win a trophy or an award for doing the most unusual things or going off the beaten track or time spent in a country or minimum money spent, yadda yadda yadda.

We've noticed it quite a few times when we mention things such as for example that we did go to South Africa, but were only there for 5 days ... we hear things like "Ooohhh , well how can you say you've SEEN South Africa if you've only been there for 5 days???". (We went specifially for sharks and Robben Island). In our opinion, five days was more than enough, we saw what we wanted to see and moved on!

There seems to be this righteous attitude of what "real backpacking" is among backpackers (not everyone of course, but we've come accross it many many times!), and it's annoying!!! The "package tourists" don't seem to do that ... they're just so excited and appreciative of travelling in general! Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #38746  
B Posts: 151
Very well said Trevor and Kristena !

It also irritates me when the so called "real backpackers" seems to take the "moral higher ground" ...

Yes...I'm a tourist too !....having said that, I just realized that I've just given the "Don't Wanna be called Tourists" the opportunity to bite my head off !....haha...cheers ! ;-) Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #38751  
I guess we're all "tourists" inasmuch as we are all touring. The main difference between a "backpacker" and someone travelling as part of an organized tour (a "suitcaser"?) is that the former has less money the latter, but because he usually travels in countries where locals have even less than himself, he automathically fully qualifies as "tourist". And if, instead, he decides to go and try his luck in a very expensive country, well, if he's got the money to go in such a place he must be... a tourist :-)

Marco Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #38754  
not at all. it's just a label. i'm more concerned about the experience. not taking a package holiday does not necessarily make one a traveller. the 'traveller' could very well be following the exact same itinerary as a tourist sans a tour guide. there are backpackers/'travellers' who behave like package tourists. they stick with other backpackers and do the same touristy stuff while making little or no effort to interact with the locals. so, what's the difference? the distinction between a 'traveller' and a 'package tourist' is fast blurring. Group tours catering to the more adventurous-minded who wish to explore the less beaten path and experience more of the country's culture are getting very popular. it's fashionable to sneer at package tourists (i'm not referring to anyone in particular in case you misunderstand), but hey they are enjoying themselves immensely, especially the older folks. that's what really matters. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #38775  
B Posts: 580
A few years ago I was traveling through Kenya with an ex-girlfriend. It’d been a while since we'd come into contact with any backpackers/travelers/tourists as we’d come down through Sudan and Ethiopia. We had a hunch we might come across some foreigners when we got to Mombasa as there are quite a few packaged tourist resorts scattered along the east coast.

My girlfriend now had some leverage in demanding a make-over, and so we spruced up a bit for the occasion, so as not to be judged too harshly in our disheveled state. I even splashed out a buck for a guy to give me a proper shave and dug deep into the bottom of my backpack for a clean shirt. We looked pretty presentable and... some foreigners, possibly even "real backpackers" brandishing slightly grungy appearances, sneered at us rather disdainfully as we passed them in the street…

I learnt a lot that day...
Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #38791  
Galacticnik, I haven't quite got your point. Forgive me but (sometimes) I'm very foreigner. Your first line was "not at all" but after that you stated -in different words- a concept very similar to the one I had just expressed.

One more thing. You mention the importance of "experiencing" something/somewhere but what is the "experience" in -say- join in a package tour and visiting 15 cities in 7 different countries in a mere 2 weeks journey? Renegade traveller cruise-goer Aspiringnomad (only kidding, Jason :-) wrote about this in his last entry as he actually got a closer look to it. It was a very interesting subject. Following a shepherd trough Marrakech's medina for 2 hours along with 50 other very passive foreigner can be considered an "experience"? Well, Yes, philosophically...

marco Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 10 Msg: #38850  
B Posts: 212
I think galacticnic makes a really good point. There are a lot of backpacker travellers who don't actually do much different to what people on a tour might do, and do stick with each other, whilst maintaining an opinion of superiority over 'tourists'. When I was travelling I think I fitted into all of the categories at some time or other - I was a solo traveller, technically with a backpack so that made me a 'backpacker'. Sometimes I met people, hooked up with them, stuck with them as I needed and wanted the company; sometimes I felt ok to be alone and had some really good experiences and encounters with locals I met. sometimes I just wandered around by myself and didn't interact with anyone, travellers or natives, except for basics. Sometimes I joined an organised tour for a day because I might have wanted the break from doing my own organising, the company of other people, or just the benefit of the guide's knowledge. Most of the time I stayed in hostels and guest houses. Occasionally I went to stay in a hotel and soaked up the luxury! Sometimes I got food and cooked in hostels; other times I went out and ate in nice places. sometimes I did everything the natives' way. Other times I sought out western food, and western comforts. I don't really judge any of these experiences as being more 'experiential' than any others - they were all experiences! I equally enjoyed a really good organised tour to Ha Long Bay as I enjoyed getting lost one day in Bangkok, ending up in a neighbourhood I had no idea how to get out of, and being rescued by a Thai man who told me his life story while walking me out of the labyrinth of wooden houses by the river. I equally enjoyed eating thalis in Indian canteens with my fingers, drinking sugar cane juice from a street stall, as I did eating the first pizza I'd had in 6 months in a posh cafe in Singapore and rounding off with Singapore Slings in Raffles hotel. One day I was walking down the street in Jaipur, having been 5 months in India - I was hot, dusty, tired, having forced my way through the crowds in the bazaar, and had been trying to cross the road for 10 minutes (people who've been to India will understand that one!). A coach stopped by the side of the road and a group of tourists got out to spend time at the bazaar for shopping. The person I was with started commenting on how they weren't getting the real experience at all and had been cocooned in an air-con coach and would now be guided through the bazaar before going back to their nice hotel for dinner, etc etc. Personally, I looked at them and at that moment felt jealous. Other times I was happy to live basically, to appreciate the conditions others have to live in all the time, and to conquer my fears of poor hygiene and insects crawling everywhere - but that was a personal thing for me.
I'm sure the people walking through Marakesh Medina still got the experience of the smell of Morocco, the vibe of the place, the colours and sounds, the heat and the dust, the energy. There's always the extreme where people talk about 'doing' a country or place rather than visiting it, but backpackers can be as guilty of this as anyone else though they may not use those words - who hasn't come across travellers who talk about the fact that they saw 21 countries in a year? We all do that to some extent. I admit I like looking through my passport now with all the stamps on it, and the fact that my passport's all bent and tattered, with the writing on the front worn off.
PS Jo Trouble - your experience of talking in Japanese and being replied to in English - I understand it's annoying - I also think probably people want to show you how well they speak English, and probably think they're being really helpful by talking to you in English! Reply to this

12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 11 Msg: #38894  
Considering the alternative, namely NOT being a tourist, I am ecstatic to be one. It means I am still adventurous (even at my age), that don't care much about what others think/say/do (still a rebel), and am not afraid to admit that I haven't been here before -- -- where ever that current "here" might be. It means I am blessed enough to be able to dig up the money to just get out there and complete my own personal "bucket list."

Especially, I appreciate Debtravel's post, directly above. Once, because I speak a smattering of Russian, I was trotted out by our over-zealous local Chamber of Commerce to an arrival of Russian competitors during a World Cup Shooting Tournament. They immediately and enthusiastically informed me that they wanted to speak English as much as possible during their visit. I only became a welcome "crutch" for them when dealing with things like late buses and missing Disneyland tickets. But, they did marvelously well on their own. They also loved their free days when they could, as they put it, "just be tourists!"

I hear Anthony Bourdain's tag line to his Travel Channel show, "Don't be a tourist, be a traveler." and it makes me cringe. Well, sir, to be a tourist, I simply must be a traveler first. There seems to be no other way. (Unless I develop a severe memory loss and can be a tourist in my own home simply by walking to the kitchen.)

I've been "'round the world and to two county fairs" (as they used to say), but, I'm not so sophisticated that I don't unapologetically, quite simply, gawk "like a tourist" as something or someplace I have wanted to see all my life. It's the wonder, then. That almost child-like wonder that keeps us going to places, the near ones and the far. We seem to learn more about ourselves when we are in unfamiliar surroundings. To the locals, we will by definition always be tourists, no matter how we fancy ourselves. Everywhere I have traveled, I have met friendly, sincere, helpful people, even thought I was a "tourist." We should only be too happy to return the favor when they come to visit us.
Reply to this

12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #38959  
B Posts: 71
In the red corner, the "Backpacker"... In the blue corner, the "Tourist".

Let me ask a question. If you were going to Egypt for the first time, would you not go and see the Pyramids? Of course you would go see them. So you're standing at the foot of the Sphinx and look around to see thousands and thousands of other foreigners. My question is, are you are a tourist or a backpacker? Does it matter you are there on a package tour or you went by yourself overland from Sudan with your backpack?

It seems as long as I have been travelling, I have been hearing the difference between the two. I started out a tourist, plain and simple and not going to deny it. Very soon, however, I realised the beauty of backpacking. The more and more "off the beaten track" and "adventurous" I got, I had people (usually other "backpackers") breathing down my neck stating that I'm not a real backpacker for doing something touristy etc... blah blah blah..

When I was in Bosnia, I was staying in a Sarajevo hostel with the guy I was travelling with, and a couple of people we met. We were sitting in the bar downstairs having a few beers when this American "befriended" us and starting shooting his mouth off about what he has done in Bosnia. We told him we took a tour out to the Sarajevo tunnel and a few other sights etc.. (which was run by one of the hostel staff) He gave us a look "Oh. You did a tour?" He said with a condescending tone. "Yeah I did that with the locals, they took me out there, bought me beer, showed me around. I rather do things with the locals. I am basically a local myself now". My only response was to stand up and walk away without saying a word.

This constant battle over who is better, a tourist or backpacker or traveller (or whatever other word you want to use), is kind of annoying. I travel for my own reasons, because I love it. I go to touristy places and do touristy things yes, but sometimes I end up in places where I am the only foreigner and I get stared at because they haven't seen a person like me before. So does all this make me a tourist or a backpacker? I think they are only words and in the end were all just foreign people travelling through a foreign land by what ever means possible.

As far as what the locals think of me, Im a foreigner so whay would I try not to be. Of course, there is always an element of acting appropriately in the local culture, learning the language and trying not to stand out too much with outlandish clothing but in the end I'm Australian and proud to be so why am I going to pretend I'm not?. I currently live in a very non touristy area in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and because of the way I look, I am a total "gringo". I am starting to get the hang of Portuguese and I dress pretty much the same as most other locals but when I walk around the touristy south zone, I am sometimes looked at with rolled eyes as a gringo. I dont care, it just so happens the south zone is the nicest area in Rio so why wouldnt I go there?

To me none of this matters and I think some people loose sight of why we travel in the first place. If you're travelling to be competitive (i.e. "I've been to more countries than you" or "Ive seen more of this country than you") than that's pretty pathetic to me. I travel for the love of it, whether it be eating a croissant while staring at the Eiffel Tower or having people wanting to touch your white skin because they've never seen something like you before, its all good to me. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #38971  
well said nomad! that's EXACTLLY what we were tying to get at!!! Reply to this

12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #38974  

Does it matter you are there on a package tour or you went by yourself overland from Sudan with your backpack?

It matters quite a lot to me because I like to do what I want for as long or short as I want when I travel. For example, when I went to Egypt I just wanted to hang out in the desert for around a week. There is something about the way it feels to just do nothing in the desert that being with a tour would have disturbed. Also, if a tour bus pulled up in the desert and lots of people got out of it and started taking photos and looking at this and looking at that I would have been relieved when they left. It is a whole different thing in my opinion if a lone backpacker comes along.
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12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #38978  
B Posts: 71
I understand your point Mel and I agree. I would love to have everywhere I went to myself aswell. The thing is, if you were on a tour, you probably wouldn´t´ve gone where you went. My point was while standing at the pyramids, Egypt´s, if not the world´s biggest tourist attraction, you are just like any other foreigner, the only difference is, if you´re there by yourself you can stay all day and do what you want but if you´re on a tour you´ll probably be there for a few hours before you jump on your bus and take off to the next sight.
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12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 16 Msg: #38995  
It seems like everyone in this forum (with the exception of Mell) is tryin to defend package tours and people who take part on it. Basically, it seems to me that because backpacker have been sneering at group tourists for years it became now out-fashioned while sneering at those who sneer at package tourists is the kind of cool behaviour of the moment.
Anyway, someone above mentioned the "experience" of being part of a package tour. Well, Yes, that can be considered an experience if we define "experience" as "absolutely everything that happens to us", that means breathing is an experience, drinking a glass of water is an experience, writing the line I'm just gonna write is an experience and watching a documentary about Marrakech medina on Tv is an experience too. But if we are talking about "experience" as something that broaden one's mind, something that helps growing as a person and push one to think, well, then I'm just to thick to understand how being shepherded across the globe along with 50 other sheep can do that.
And if someone is gonna write that spending a week smokin pot, drinkin Lao beer and watchin "friends" on tv in Vang Vieng along with 200 other self-proclaimed travellers, well, that person is right 100%. There is no difference between the two kinds.

Marco Reply to this

12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 17 Msg: #38997  
Some people get enjoyment out of tours and some dont - but it shouldnt be to for some to patronise the others experience and fun, because one thinks that they are superior because they had the "real" experience. I have also experienced this abroad, listening to lots of really young kids trying desperately to prove something.

I have done both package tours, independent travel and package holidays, and got something out of every one of my trips. I would not have easily been able to hire a local independently to row through halong bay - I had a good experience in the tour and I would not have missed it for the world - it was breathtaking.

The "independent traveller" can contradict oneself of the belief that they can do everything independently - on occasions you can find your just making things plain awkward to remain independent and sometimes going to miss out on certain things that one can not do independently i.e. Machu Pichu or Galapagos or something like this.

We are not all so fortunate to have all the time in the world to hang around and sometimes have to be selective about what one can achieve in the time that they have, a tour can help achieve this without some of the stress (especially not good on limited time), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Everyone is a tourist if your there to visit the country and experience new things, but how you achieve this is up to you and there is no one better or worse, just different for different people. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 18th 2008 No: 18 Msg: #39034  
B Posts: 151
Although we are all tourists in essence - touring or travelling in a foreign land, I can understand the mindset of those who want to "classify" themselves as the "Real Travellers".

I honestly do admire their principles for wanting to take their time to immerse themselves into other cultures and connect with the locals instead of just passively admire the countries major tourists attractions.

Venturing into the unknown on your own is also a courageous thing to do 'cos I personally feel safe travelling with someone or being in tour group. So I do believe that the "real travellers" deserve a credit point for that ;-) ...........cheers ! Reply to this

12 years ago, June 18th 2008 No: 19 Msg: #39063  

.......it became now out-fashioned while sneering at those who sneer at package tourists is the kind of cool behaviour of the moment.

Are any of us here still young enough to hold an opinion just to be cool? :D
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12 years ago, June 18th 2008 No: 20 Msg: #39094  
I guess galacticnic has a point and Marcoelitaliano as well. After all it depends very much on who you are. You choose your mode of transport and type of vacation very individually. I believe that some elderly people love being taken to cities by bus, looking at the sites, taking in the general atmosphere and not much more. I don't think hardship or self-motivation is a prerequisite for travel.

On the other hand: a certain level of initiative and adventurer spirit makes things more interesting. Of course you want to see the Eiffel Tower when you go to Paris. But imagine how much more satisfying things get, when you meat and befriend Parisians or discover a tiny restaurant, that is not mentioned anywhere. In this way you turn the city into your individual playground. You make your own personal discoveries.


Psemek Reply to this

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