Are you a tourist or a traveler?

I came across this great quote about the distinction between a tourist and a traveler:

A traveler and a tourist can visit the same city, but experience it very differently. A tourist’s goals are typically to see all the sights, learn their names, make and collect stunning pictures, eat the foods and observe the rituals of the city. A traveler, on the other hand, seeks to understand the city, to know and live briefly among the people, to understand the languages, both verbal and nonverbal, and to participate in the rituals of the city. At the end of equally long visits, the tourist is likely to have seen more monuments, but the traveler is more likely to know how to use the public transportation (Damiran, 1993) (1)

I think a great way to travel is Couchsurfing. I have done this for quite a few years – both surfing, hosting but also simply going Tourist or travellerto meetings – because I think it is a great way to meet the people who actually live in the area that you are visiting. I find it fascinating to get a peek at their daily lives and see how that differs from mine. In this way I have met many great people around the globe; perhaps most notably a married couple of marines in San Diego, a Buddhist priest in Portland (US), and an American children’s pastor in the UK. If you want to travel, this is a good way to go!

(1) Damiran (1993) as quoted in Oddou, G. & Mendenhall, M (2008). “Global Leadership Development”. In M. Mendenhall, A. Bird, G. Oddou, & M. Maznevski. Global Leadership: Research, Practice, and Development. Routledge, 160-174

Photo of tourists reading by Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Flickr.


About Marian van Bakel

I graduated in International Business Communication at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. After my studies I was a Visiting Study Fellow at University of Oxford where I conducted a research on the adjustment of Dutch diplomats and their partners in London. In February 2012 I successfully defended my PhD thesis ‘In Touch with the Dutch’, in which I put expatriates in touch with a Dutch host to examine the effect of this contact on the success of the international assignment. During my PhD research I also worked as in house communication consultant at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I am currently a postdoc at the Department of Leadership and Corporate Strategy at the University of Southern Denmark ( Since 2004 I have done extensive voluntary work in the intercultural field for the Young Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research (Young SIETAR). One of my projects was to co-edit and co-author A Suitcase Full of Discoveries (2008), an intercultural storybook for children.
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