Dictionary definitions are almost the same but in reality there is a huge difference between a tourist and a traveler: their mindset; their goal and purpose for the trip.
A tourist is someone who is interested in seeing a place. A traveler is someone who wants to understand a place.
A tourist visits all the “places to see” and checks them off a list, “Yup, saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. It is soooooooooooooooo small!”A traveler visits fewer places but spends more time. At the Louvre, for example, instead of running to see the Mona Lisa, the traveler takes one of the themed tours offered that fits an interest, coming away from the museum with a deeper appreciation of the effort of the organization to collect and share these works of art.
A tourist is someone who walks into a travel agent and is impressed that by signing up for a week-long tour of Europe, he will be able to visit 5 countries! He spends a lot of time in a bus, sees the interiors of a lot of churches and it truly becomes a boring blur, but never admitted.
A traveler who has a week visits one or at most two cities in order to better explore and understand the history and experience life there.
A tourist spends about $50 buying one or two current guidebooks and reads through them, marking things to do. He prides himself on being able to “self-tour.” When he gets to where he is going, he reads the 3 or 4 sentences about that place and considers that enough information.
The traveler reads the guidebooks to determine which few places he can explore in depth and then searches for a local guide who can provide a lot more knowledge about the place being visited, spending several hours exploring that one section of the city. The traveler comes with curiosity and asks lots of questions.
The tourist purchases items from the shops near the places on the list and doesn’t care that the item purchased is not from the place visited. All that matters is that the name of the city is stamped on the item for people at home to see.
The traveler searches out the local market that the residents of that city frequent and purchases a small item that appeals to his interest. Or, if he collects mugs, he finds a potter’s studio and purchases an original piece.
It’s a whole different experience. Which way do YOU travel?