A good friend of mine, who is also a self-proclaimed world traveler, once told me, “Tourists leave home to escape the world, and travelers leave home to experience the world.”

This sparked a very interesting conversation between me and some of my traveler friends: What does it mean to be a traveler or a tourist, and which did they consider themselves?

What I discovered was that although I have friends who have traveled all over the world, some prefer to backpack across countries to mingle with locals, steering free of tourist traps along the way. Others like stay close to their resorts and major attractions for safety. I on the other hand, dwell somewhere in between the two. On my recent solo trip to Europe, I definitely made sure to visit the landmarks and touristy areas. I enjoyed the views of London from the London Eye, took a plethora of pictures at the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, and explored the Coliseum with an audio guide in Rome. Not to mention, I don’t think anything screamed “tourist” more than the fact that I even pre-purchased one of those Big-Red Bus Tours in each city!

On the flip-side, I dined at local mom and pop restaurants for most of my trip, traveled mostly on public transportation and attended shows that were filled mostly with locals. I even found myself altering some of my outfits to “fit in” so I didn’t stand out too much. While I left home for an escape, I definitely experienced the cultures of the countries I visited. I enjoyed learning the history of each city, and I enjoyed soaking in the culture and meeting locals.

What is your take on this great debate? Are you more of a traveler than tourist? Are you both?

This story was curated by Tiffany Edwards


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