How to be a traveler, not a tourist | Wanderlust City Projects (WCP)

Updated: Nov 25, 2019

Woman taking picture of market

A traveler is someone who wants to fully immerse themselves in the culture of the destination they’re visiting to gain a truly more authentic experience.

Travelers are the types who wish to avoid common tourist traps and prefer to experience a place in alignment with their values and passions.

To embrace the traveler in you, focus on the history, culture, food and traditional experiences of the country.

Here are some tips on how you can be more of a traveler and less of a tourist:

Don’t focus on sightseeing

A tourist is occupied with checking off major attractions, whereas a traveler is interested in experiencing a place beyond its sites.

Understandably, if you’re visiting a city for the first time there may be some key sites you wish to see. But instead of becoming obsessed with ticking off every attraction, only to have a jam-packed daily itinerary, consider what you value and why you’ve decided to travel.

If enjoying food and having pockets of free time to simply wander around is something that you like about travelling, make that your focus. You’ll come out the other side with a real and lasting experience.

Show respect

Tourists often get a bad reputation when they don’t show respect to local people and customs. They visit a place, act like it’s their own, and depart without thinking about the impact they’ve left behind.

However, travelers seeking a genuine experience of a place can do so by acknowledging and following local traditions and conventions.

Do some research before arriving at your destination to determine how you can show respect. Perhaps it’s dressing appropriately when entering temples or churches. Perhaps it’s viewing a sacred site from a distance rather than entering it. Perhaps it’s using a few words in the local language to share a respectful ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.

This will allow you to experience a place from a unique perspective, while showing respect will go a long way with the locals.

Think local

They say the best way to experience a place in its true form is to live like a local. The easiest way to do this is to connect with locals to get a glimpse into the real culture of a place.

Ask residents for recommendations of places to eat and shop, join a nearby meetup group, attend a local sporting match, or strike up a conversation with a cafe owner.

The greatest way to discover something that is not touristy is to find out where the locals go and what they do.

Support the local economy

If you want to live like a local while on holiday, shop like a local too.

Supporting local businesses over large, international chains is a great way to not only support a local economy but have a positive impact as a traveler.

Ditch the souvenirs on sale at tourist shops and opt for handcrafted items made by the very people who live in the place you’re visiting.

It may cost a little more, but you’ll leave with something more valuable than a mass-produced trinket.

Be mindful

Immersing yourself in a new place is not simply about arriving there, visiting some sites and saying you’ve seen it.

Consider travelling to a destination and being more mindful in your day-to-day experiences. For example, take the time to truly appreciate the sunset, fully acknowledge your intention for travelling, or give something back to the place you’re visiting.

Showing appreciation and gratitude for your travel experiences will indeed be the difference between being a tourist merely passing through, and a traveler who truly values their journey.

Image of Sharon Green

Written by Sharon Green for Wanderlust City Projects. Sharon is a journalist, copywriter and editor who has worked in mainstream media in Australia and the United Kingdom. She is also the founding editor of women's lifestyle publication SHE DEFINED.

Her favourite city in the world is London, which will always have a piece of her heart. Sharon’s top travel tip is to travel solo – some of her best adventures have come from exploring the world on her own.

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