The Traveler vs The Tourist

A Flip Flop Philosophy Travel Guide

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” -Andrew Zimmerman


Most of you all know here at Coastlines & Tan Lines we are avid travelers; however we do not consider ourselves tourist. I make that distinction based on my own time spent as both a tourist, and more recently, a travler.

So where is the distinction? That proverbial line in the sand?  Let’s look at where I feel the differences lie.

The Tourist

When traveling the tourist has a tendency to cram in all they can from large places in short periods of time. This is a bit like going to a high-end steakhouse and having a speed-eating contest. Sure you were there, and yes you had the steak; but you missed the subtle flavors, the textures, aroma, and how it paired with that $300 bottle of red wine you sucked down. It just doesn’t make sense.

The tourist will also stick to the usual places they have seen on T.V. or in a brochure where everything is laid out all nice and neat so to perfectly fit what we expect to see. Smiling faces, overpriced sugary drinks, and nicely manicured settings all laid out reminiscent of a Disney World trip. But is this the real experience of what this place is or has to offer? For some this may be all fine and dandy, but for the wayward traveler, especially one who has grown up the tourist trap that is Florida, I see through the overpriced rum punch.

The Traveler

The traveler is one who wants to see all of a place but may take a few trips to do so. Much like the foodie in the steakhouse who smells the food, takes in it’s presentation, savors each bite, and reflects on it’s pairing with a nice wine; the traveler may spend an entire day in a place that the tourist charges through in a just an hour or two.

The traveler also seeks out the path less traveled by the sunburned feet of the tourist and desires to see where they are as the locals do. Admittedly this can be difficult and in some cases dangerous (just ask me about my Mexico excursion one day) but often it is well worth the added risk and effort. I should note that the seasoned traveler also knows how to gauge risk and not be foolish. Trust me, I have ventured into some places I likely shouldn’t have been.


But traveling is all about getting to know a place beyond the snapshots. A traveler likely knows, and is known, by the locals when they leave and again upon their return; especially by a good bar tender!  Some people see visiting the same place over and over as odd, but for the travelers we know that this trip will not be like the last and that it’s better to really know some of a place really well than to know all of it only a little.

For instance my trip tomorrow to St. John. I have been here may times, and yes I will visit some favorites; but I am so excited to be staying at the Concordia Eco-Resort because this gives me a chance to explore some of the island I haven’t yet really explored! Also, admittedly, my transition into the traveler mindset is only within the last few years so there is much to revisit through a new lens.

Closing Thoughts

But the point of travel is to see the world outside of our own narrow window, to experience this blue marble for all it has; and in the end if you had a good time and brought away some great memories then you have found part of that traveler spirit. Maybe a few hours is all you have and you have so much you want to see as you know you may not be able to return for some time. All I suggest is to take pause every once and a while, block out the noise of the other others around you, and let in the sights, sounds, and smells of where you are. Take a moment and really be in here and now, reflect on where you are, who you are sharing this time with, and really appreciate it all for it’s beauty.  And even if just for a moment, recognize how lucky you are to be living your life in that time and place. Those are the moments I take with me and that I recall and cherish most and to me is the reason for travel and is at the core of the travelers soul.

Here are some suggestions I heard once that sums it up pretty well; the 10 rules of the travler.

  1. Sit and people watch
  2. Eat where the locals do, get out of the tourist traps.
  3. Go to a grocery store/market.  This is the best way to see the real local cuisine.
  4. As our friends at Team Cocktail say; “Drink local”
  5. Find a park or hidden beach and spend the day away from the crowds.
  6. Be in the moment!
  7. Try the food at the street vendors! No matter how weird!
  8. Buy and look at local designs.  Again away from the tourist traps!!
  9. Take a walk around the city; especially at night.
  10. Share your travels, and thus your world, with someone you can’t live without.


Bon Voyage fellow travelers.


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