Man sat by glacier lake

How to be a traveller and not a tourist

Author: Will Sandilands

“Please be a traveller, 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 Zimmern

There is nothing that shouts tourist more than a back-to-front backpack, an over-sized pocket map and extremely short shorts. The staged and slightly off photograph holding up the leaning tower of Pisa, or attempting to crush a tube of Pringles on the Bolivian salt flats. No one wants to be that person.

So, with that in mind, we bring you this article with tips on how to be a traveller and not a tourist – after all, there is a huge difference. One travels for the polished photograph, the other for the adventure and experience.

1. Try Couch surfing

It’s common belief that hostels are the best place to meet like-minded people. However, there is a very slim chance that you are going to be sharing your dorm with a local Peruvian in Machu Picchu. You have a higher chance of meeting someone from your home town.

To experience a country, you need to experience its culture and to experience its culture you need to experience the local people. Couch surfing is definitely the way forward. Locals all over the globe are offering up their sofas (for free) for those who are eager to experience their way of life and culture.

2. Volunteering

Photo: dfataustralianaid

You can’t experience a country or culture through a book alone. It’s all about getting yourself stuck in. If you are travelling around China, perhaps look into volunteering on a rice farm for a day or two. Likewise, if you are travelling around India, volunteering on a tea leaf farm. It’s time to get your hands dirty – as adventurers you should be used to that!

3. Don’t be scared to get lost


Photo: Diana Robinson 

Veering off the beaten path is all part of an adventure and it’s not as bad as it seems. Here’s one piece of advice; if you find yourself diverging from the path, don’t turn back. Keep going, as you never know what hidden beauties you may stumble across. You could be the next Darwin in the Galapagos Islands and witness something nobody else has seen before – now that’s what I call an adventure!

4. Avoid the over-hyped attractions and package deal scams

Sometimes you can’t avoid sticking out as a tourist. Whether it’s the English accent or harsh sunburn which gives it away, sometimes it just can’t be helped. Unfortunately, being a traveller it can have a number of down sides. Chances are, you are going to meet a Del Boy somewhere along the way on your travels.

The key to avoiding these irritating scams is to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. More to the point, if you take an organised safari around Africa to observe the stunning wildlife, you could find yourself paying over the odds for a 30-minute round-trip.