Brad is the name. I’ve been in Cambodia for shortly under a year as well as being fortunate enough to venture across some more of the lands of Southeast Asia. All of which have been enjoyable… The only drawback being that I’m very white and partially ginger and with that I’m more of a wander a little, sit and spectate a lot kind of guy.
Scottish born, 25 and work in the media and brand department of this company.
All thoughts are my own.
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
It’s a weird awareness, but one that has recently become fully apparent. The ability to separate a ‘traveler’ from a ‘tourist.’
That’s not in the sense that you just see ‘dreadlocks’ and ‘beards’ clashing with ‘I Love Cambodia’ vests paired with ‘socks and sandals.’ There’s a subtle difference in the way that both travelers and tourists carry themselves in places like Siem Reap’s infamous ‘Pub Street’ or Bangkok’s ‘Khaosan Road.’
I often find myself in a state of mentally wrestling with the notion of shouting at the tourist ‘take off your socks!’ and simultaneously shouting at the traveler ‘put on some f*****g shoes!’
You become quite the snob when you’re an expat.
Being an expat in Siem Reap and having spent close to a year here; the observational astuteness has become the sharpest knife in the drawer, when it comes to watching folks travel through this southeast Asian mecca of adventure.
Let’s take a look at six differences between the ‘traveler and the tourist.’
- Tourists stick to international English, whilst Travelers utter broken language(s).
Both tourists and travelers may be visiting the same country, their method of communication, however, varies widely. Whereas a tourist would likely stick to their mother-tongue, a traveler will have no doubt developed a knack for discovering some of the local phrases and sayings.
If you’ve ever visited Cambodia you’ll likely have seen Cambodians interacting with each other or travelers interacting with Cambodians often hearing the phrase ‘Orr Kun’ which literally translates into ‘Thank You.’ Learning these little key phrases will make the local person you’re interacting with happy that you’ve learned some of their language. However, you give that local an inch and they go for a mile immediately trying to engage you in a full conversation in their language… to which the traveler would likely respond ‘som toh, Khmer tik tik’ which means ‘Sorry, Cambodian a little.’ Leaving the traveler slightly embarrassed, but happy all the same that they were able to have a small interaction with the local.
Tourists will likely refrain from learning any of the local language, as they are normally part of a group in the form of families or friends. Particularly those of us that were born and raised in countries where English is the mother language (myself included) we approach learning a new language in an almost arrogant manner. In the sense that we know people are educated on the English language all over the world; so why should we, as English speakers, bother to learn another language? I would point out though that the reader should be aware that I’m beyond Scottish and speak in a near inscrutable accent, ironically sometimes finding it easier to communicate in the local language as opposed to the English language I grew up using.
- Big Spender vs ‘How much?!’
Travelers and Tourists are arguably at their easiest to differentiate between when it comes to observing their transactions. Tourists will likely be on holiday, with a reasonable budget and knowing that they’ll soon return to their steady and regular income of revenue upon their return to their job back home. The traveler is a far more shrewd buddie, exercising an admirable finesse when it comes to them sticking to their very limited budget. The budget likely gained from working relentlessly for a year or two to save up for their globetrotting endeavours.
This is most evident in night-markets and souvenir or clothing stores. There’s an almost fishing-like cycle to it from the position of the traveler. If you witness a person with formidable negotiation tactics; baiting the rod gently exercising ninja-esque patience, until the vendor finally bites and they reel them clean out of the water. To the finality of them paying $6 dollars for the elephant pants rather than the initial asking price of $18 – that my friends is a seasoned and decorated traveler; who’ll have no doubt amassed that skillset after considerable experience that makes them master negotiators. They’ve perfected the art of dimes rather than dollars. You crafty bunch! 😉
The tourist is still operating under the assumption that transactions and their asking prices are absolute. This might be the case in Target or Costco, but in the beautiful lands of the Southeast Asian vendors they’re willing to give a little wiggle-room. Of course this is provided that that wiggle-room is asked for… but the tourist will almost never labour the point of a cheaper price. In most cases will find themselves happily paying $20 for the $18 set of elephant pants that the traveler got for… yup, $6!
- You can take Gary out of Glasgow, but you can’t take Glasgow out of Gary.
If you’re standing with Gary in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, Scotland on a Friday night–he’s your man. He knows all the places and all the bars and all the nightlife. At the end of the night though, Gary is headed for a pizza–from the same pizza joint he’s used for the last ten years. Gary is the tourist.
He’s ready for uncaving some new bars, but he’ll stick to the lager and pizza he’s become accustomed to. He’ll rarely partake in the tastebud labyrinth of experiencing new cuisines or drinks. He’s not opposed to it, he’s just more comfortable in sticking to what he knows. This is a calamitous conundrum for a Gary that’s mentally contracted to a consistent consumption of carby pizzas. He’ll pay through the nose, but if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.
The traveler is what a Scottish person might call a ‘gannet’, a Scots word for describing a person who will eat ‘almost anything.’ They’ve been on the road long enough to realise that regardless of how hard you look, haggis or square sausage just will not be available. They’ve developed a willingness, out of necessity, to eat virtually everything and anything.
Rat? Eh… okay!
But when they’re reunited with that magical elixir the Gods call ‘Irn-Bru’ there’s really no substitute for neither him nor you.
- Uber vs ‘how close to ____ can you get me?’
The traveler has undoubtedly been on the go for quite some time. All along the way meeting new people, sharing stories, creating memories and always moving forward to their next destination. In doing this they’ll have come to understand that despite what we see on our news networks daily, there’s far more unites us than divides us. This reaffirms the love and belief for people throughout this crazy big world of ours. There’s only so far one can get on foot though, and when you’re trekking on a budget, and looking to meet some new folks and take in some new vistas, with the window down and the breeze hitting your face–sometimes the traveler will throw up their thumb and wait for some hero to stop and say ‘jump in’. They’ll be on their way to the next stop. Wherever it may be. The travelers only plan is to travel and they’re willing to do that by any means practical. Remember people, ‘The Hitcher’ was a horror film, not a portrayal of your typical folk that are happy to lend a motoring hand.
The tourist, having not experienced the ways of the world to the level that the traveler has will be a bit more reserved on how they get from ‘a’ to ‘b’. They’re also normally not traveling too far as the destination they find themselves in will almost always be the destination they’ll spend their seven, ten or fourteen days until it’s time to go home. So they’ll be more likely to use the local methods of being shuttled from one point to another. In Siem Reap the ‘Tuk Tuk’ is the most used method of transport. Which for those of you that don’t know is essentially a motorbike with an open-carriage on the back. If you mixed Steve McQueen’s with the actual Queen’s methods of transport – you’d have a ‘Tuk Tuk.’
- Bag above wheels or bag above heels.
We were all a tourist to begin with, whether it was a family holiday or your first holiday away with your friends. Every one of us has at one point been a tourist. Men and women differ slightly when packing as a tourist–but one thing everyone can agree on is that there’s only so many household appliances we need before it all starts getting a bit silly. Hairdryer? Fine. Shaver? Fine. But when we start packing our microwaves and games consoles it rapidly gets out of hand. Ready to check-in the first of your five over-sized, unnecessary and ambitious haul of ‘stuff.’
We then arrive at our hotel and dump it all in a corner where it lies largely unused and mostly unmoved for the duration of your entire trip, before it’s all piled back into the bag with nowhere near the grace that it was initially and impeccably placed in pre-departure.
When you go on enough of these trips the speed of organisation and rationale needs form at a very fast pace… ‘It’s okay, Brad. We’ll leave the microwave this time.’
Travelers become warriors at decreasing the load, organising their sh*t and ready to throw it together and move on at a moments notice. One of my colleagues ‘G’ has been on the road for almost five years and across some thirty countries. She heads up looking after the volunteers whilst they’re on project and is nothing short of a maverick when it comes to organisation and packing. G has the ability to carry a weeks worth of clothing and essentials in a bag the size of a lunchbox.
This is a characteristic of a traveler well traveled.
The rucksack isn’t just their belongings, it’s their life. Everything they need to fulfill their penchant for experiencing all that’s unfamiliar and new is held in that small bag.
- Tourists will ask questions, travelers arrogantly believe they have all the answers.
If you find yourself being a tourist, you’re interested in asking about stuff. If you don’t know the answer to a question about a land you’re unfamiliar with – you’ll ask the question to get the answer. Totally rational and appropriate action for this particular situation.
You might find yourself heading to your accommodation and giving a reference to where it’s near and the name of the street.
The traveler however would take a more firm approach. The traveler would get in the transport and possibly insist that the driver jump in the back and let the traveler show him literally how to get there… despite sometimes not knowing where they’re going.
‘Listen driver, I’ve been traveling for years. My navigation game is solid. Trust me, I’m a traveler. I know what I’m doing.’
‘But sir, I’ve lived here all my li…’
‘Sorry, weren’t you listening?! I told you I’m a traveler!’
That is to say that often is the case there’s an ‘us and them’ situation, which is mostly on the part of the traveler. They’ve normally met too many like-minded, dreadlock-clad individuals finding themselves… looking upon the friendly tourist as nothing short of a social-pariah, or worse, a tourist!
That’s all for now. Stick around and keep an eye out for the next lot of ‘Brad Knows Everything’ even though he really doesn’t.