Tourist Ranking System – Traveller Watching

The difference between a tourist and a traveller is an on-going debate that will probably never reach any sensible conclusion. My personal viewpoint on the subject is described in another Tourists are travellers too post.

However I thought it might provide a few laughs to poke fun at some of our preconceptions of the stereotypes and provide a ‘ranking’ system for ease of recognition.

The Workaholic

Not really a traveller at all, they almost rarely take any form of vacation due to being ‘irreplaceable’ they will often be heard saying “this place would fall apart without me.”

Easily recognisable they are the ones being pushed out of the door every few years to take an ‘enforced break’ by a boss worried the company health plan premiums might increase if they have a nervous breakdown.

Tourist relaxing on a Catalan beach, Spain  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

“Wish I’d brought the tv”

The Staycationer

Vacationing in your own country is increasingly popular and its virtues have been extolled in many publications. This traveller often cites exploring their own doorstep” as their holiday plan, but it is more likely they will merely trip over it.

They spend the whole two weeks watching daytime television and playing console games unless they are married in which case painting the spare room is more likely. The local pizza delivery will usually be on speed dial. They are extremely difficult to spot as they never come out.

The Tourist

Much maligned the tourist is usually part of a mating pair holidaying once a year. They maybe spotted head stuck in a guidebook dragging three bored children around sites they do not want to see. Wait at any McDonalds and they are likely to arrive in a constant stream throughout the day.

They can be recognised by their refusal to speak the language, complaining to the manager there is not any English food on the menu and to each other that the “place is full of foreigners.”

The Guided

These wily travellers have taken the wise step of joining a guided tour. Usually disembarking a bus just as you arrive at a haven of solitude, chattering excitedly they surround their ‘leader’ who maybe holding an umbrella in the air and calling “Demon Tours”, “the weebles” or something similar.

They can be identified quite easily, usually clad in a camera, camcorder, smartphone, baseball cap with headcam and shades. Additionally whilst the tour guide is explaining the history of the Coliseum they will be taking a picture of the Starbucks sign offering froth-free, fu-bar flavoured mochaccino with genuine artificial chocolate bits.

Tourist skiers on the piste in the Italian Sud Tirol  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

“Only here for the snow”

Ski Bum

Following the great white powder, regardless of the season they are never comfortable when the temperature rises above zero degrees. Mistakenly considered as lazy, anybody that has seen the amount of effort put into building a ‘kicker’ knows differently.

Unmistakeable from their ‘panda’ eyes and habit of carrying a snowboard in the local supermarket, using words like “dude, rad man and bummer” whilst looking for ski wax in the dairy produce.

The Traveller

Considered to be the pinnacle of travel evolution if only by themselves; travelling is in ‘their blood’. Collecting passport stamps like Jeremy Clarkson does speeding points on his driving licence, they exude confidence wherever they roam. They also insist on speaking the local language even though nobody can understand them. They often cluster in groups but then extoll the virtues of solo travel.

They are recognisable by their habit of debating amongst themselves the ultimate travel destination, pleasures of cultural immersion and explaining to anyone within earshot that “this place is not the same now the tourists have arrived.”

The Nomad

The ultimate traveller has been on the road for several years and probably not been home since they set out. Most claim it was a ‘lifestyle’ choice and not just because they got kicked out. Usually describing themselves as solo travellers they are however often the ‘hostel heroes’.

They can be identified easily; often wearing odd, worn garments purchased in Peru, Bhutan or Africa and clad in more necklaces and bracelets than the average Maasai tribe. They usually only own a single backpack and leave several items at every destination in an attempt to “shed a little weight”.

There is also a sub-species known as the digital nomad although the difference is not clear, perhaps they are a remote controlled version produced by Sony that speaks only in binary code.

As well as travelling for the experience and enjoyment there are some that do so professionally.

Tourist using their smartphone while hot air ballooning in Catalonia, Spain  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Tweeting “not much happening”

The Resort Rep

Regaled by the tour operator as the ultimate information source for a destination, this usually extends to available tour operator excursions. They like to work on the ‘Field of Dreams’ marketing approach; “if you call it a party, they will come”. Reception meetings therefore become ‘welcome drinks’.

They are usually recognisable as being alarmingly ‘full of beans’ whatever the time of the day despite having spent all the previous night partying at the local club.

The Travel Blogger

No self-respecting blogger will travel to any location without good internet access. The number of modern communication devices they carry would embarrass the average Brigade of Signals and they usually have a ‘stooped’ back from carrying it all.

They can often be identified by their need to ‘tweet’ more than actually observe. Sending out a “just about to watch a once in a lifetime solar eclipse” message to their followers but  missing the event itself whilst setting up the smartphone to take a picture. They will also suddenly jump up in a restaurant with camera in hand as each successive course is produced.

The Travel Journalist

Now considered an endangered species as the distinction between them and bloggers blurs, many producing digital ink as well as traditional print articles. The really determined can find them in luxury travel destinations with large expense accounts and even larger bottles of wine.

The Travel Writer

Possibly the most laid back traveller of all as subconsciously trying to emulate Hemmingway in their ‘lifestyle’. There is not any particular rush, no deadlines or editors to keep happy, the latest book is already on chapter two and only they started it three years ago.

Finding this particular traveller requires staying close to the bar, where the cost of taking up their precious time is likely to be being left holding the bar bill.

I hope nobody identified too closely with any of these travel characters and is feeling a little offended.

Do not bother asking who is in the last picture because my lips are sealed and anybody that recognises her should remain quiet too!


Comments 25

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  1. santafetraveler

    Funny! We play tourist at home all the time and have done it for years. But we really do stuff. I refuse to Tweet when I’m doing something- I want to actually experience what I’m doing. For years I didn’t travel with a camera.

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      Lol Deb i did wonder if you might take a peak at this, thanks for commenting. Realised recently becoming far too serious in my posting needed to smile a bit again.

  2. Sarah

    Would it be too ambitious to want to be all of these?

    Because seriously, that book I started a year ago is coming along nicely AND I will probably never refuse a ‘welcome drink.’

    Where’s the Can’t-Make-Up-Their-Mind-on-Their-Style-of-Travel Traveler? And you know, where do I sign up? 🙂

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      Sarah you can be anything you put your mind to of that I am convinced and it would be plain rude to refuse a drink anyway! I’ll add some sort of newsletter for you to sign up for if you really feel the need to sign up for something! Thanks for commenting and good luck with the book.

  3. Urban

    Nice Article.
    When thinking of myself over the last 15 years i find that my travel and vacation habits have changed.
    With time comes Wisdom and Change. 🙂 I came from a Workaholic, Simple Tourist, Guided t. to the Traveller.
    My next step is Nomad.

  4. Lily

    Great post! I think I’ve gone from “guided” to “traveller” to “travel blogger.” I laughed when you mentioned taking photos of the eclipse – that’s exactly what I was doing a month ago in Chiang Mai, along with at least 6 other “travel bloggers” and “digital nomads” 😉


  5. John

    Bummer! Are you dishing me dude! You can also tell me by the P-Tex burns on my fingers!
    But then you post a photo of some punters gesticulating with ski poles, at least they have stopped on the side of the piste not in the middle. You can tell the punters, they don’t know their way around, so have to point with ski poles. 😉 They also make tidy curves in the powder, like those ribbons on parcels. We just leave long arcs or even straight lines. 😉

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      Wouldn’t dream of it ski bum John 😉 I didn’t rally have a suitable pic of any ‘professional’ snowsports people on this new computer, I might change it when I have time to look through my hard drives.

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  6. Kit Whelan

    Hilarious post Iain! I am most certainly guilty of taking photos of meals and trying to “lose a little weight” from my pack, though I try my hardest to look like a normal human most of the time 🙂

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      I always feel so self conscious when taking the food pics Kit and when on my own usually forget, then remember half way through the meal! Its easier when on a group trip as everybody else jumps up which acts as my cue. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. Tanu Anand

    Haha! What a brilliant happy fun start to the day reading this. Made everyone at the workplace read it and they all insisted that they are definitely in the bracket of “workaholic” & indispensable! Don’t know abt myself! Totally depends on the destination.. Yes! Food shots & street shots are my favorite mostly because its easier to show what I was eating than trying to pronounce the complicated names of locals dishes! Started traveling with a camera & iPad only recently…but hardly use it! Thank you, for the laugh riot! I’ve just discovered you have a funny bone or two!

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