Why I’m a Visitor and not a Tourist

When I hear the word “tourist” I want to cringe with shame.  It sounds so bourgeoisie and reminds me of those loud obnoxious people who do not attempt to effortlessly blend into the local culture.  The Groswalds from National Lampoon’s Vacation is a perfect example and while it is only a movie it depicts how visitors are sometimes described when traveling.  The word ”visitor” on the other hand sounds more regal yet subtle.  A visitor may travel to another country, but visits the local markets, indulges in local experiences reflective of the culture and customs and explores historic landmarks.  A visitor dines in a restaurant.  A tourist does not tour a restaurant unless he is a health inspector and an event planner inspects a restaurant for potential venue rental, but a planner is not a tourist.

The truth is tourist is a dirty little word that reminds me of men and women wearing flashing jewelry , leather miniskirts, and six inch stilettos on an overnight flight.  Yeah sure, that’s real comfortable.  Tourists wear baseball caps, colorful patchwork shirts, chew gum loudly while the guide speaks, and wear sneakers at all times.  Sneakers are great if you are participating in a sporting activity.  Going to a restaurant in Europe with sneakers on is unacceptable unless you are planning to skip out the door without paying the bill.  Leave the crazy clothes at home and dress subtle.

Visitors snap the photo and then put the camera away.  They dress for comfort on the plane and know how to dress for dinner.  They are courteous to their guides and the local staff – understanding there may be language barrier or different traditions, but see their experience as an adventure – not as a shouting match.

Tourists speak loudly and point to everything.  Didn’t your mother tell you as a kid that it’s rude to point?  Visitors speak softly and try to blend in.

Keep your money hidden and don’t show off the big wad of cash you have stashed.  Please don’t start counting the currency trying to figure out each coin in front of everyone.  A visitor keeps their valuables well hidden.  Why encourage thieves?

Tourists wear cameras around their neck the way people wear jewelry which screams – rob me!  They perpetually take photos of everything – ranging from the goofy kid standing on the street corner to the table setting at a restaurant to each course – as if they have never eaten a meal or seen food before.  Do they take photos of their dinners in their own homes?  When I take photos of food it is for professional purposes to add to my website.  Some people take photos of bath and body products.  Again, don’t they have all these amenities at home?

Tourists stuff their bags with condiments, sugar packets, and tons of napkins.  Are they going camping?  Will they never see another restaurant during their trip?  I prefer keeping a few sanitized wipes in my purse.  It’s small and equally effective.

Tourists like to go to zoos and entertainment parks, but they’re in another country so why wouldn’t they want to do cultural things such as visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Arc du Triomphe?  Visitors on the other hand explore vast museums of art and culture and enjoy the local flavor of entertainment such as music and dance.

When planning your next trip make sure to leave the tropical shirt at home unless you’re going to the Caribbean or Hawaii.