Different types of tourists: 1, 2 and 3

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Unravelling 'the tourist'

The term ‘tourist’ is far more complex than many of us are willing to admit. Characters in literature and film attempt to negotiate the difference between ‘tourist’ and ‘traveller’ in everything from Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel ‘The Sheltering Sky’ to 2014 film ‘The Inbetweener’s 2′ (albeit in very, very different ways). I realised recently that ‘tourist’ is increasingly becoming a derogatory term, and isn’t only used in this way by people with a misguided superiority complex. So, in this series I’m going to attempt to unravel ‘the tourist’, looking at who and what it means and why we might not be happy to identify as one.

The first thing I must mention is that if you recognise a sliver of yourself in any of the descriptions below and are mortally offended, I can only apologise now. Secondly, I’ll openly admit that I myself, have probably exhibited one or two of the behaviours I’ve listed. On other occasions, whilst in hindsight I know I actually behaved very well, I’ve worked myself up into an unnecessarily panicked state of paranoia in case others thought badly of me due to how I came across. The most important thing is simply to enjoy travelling, but if next time you go away and run out of ideas in a game of ‘I  Spy’ when in a public place, see how many of my ‘different types of tourist’ you can spot.

What's the point of travelling at all if you spend your time worrying what other people think, in a place where no one even knows your name? I've asked myself this so many times, but I think that comes from harbouring unpatriotic feelings towards where I'm from and wanting to appear at least a little ambiguous rather than 'obviously British'. (Photographer: k rupp; Flickr)

What’s the point of travelling at all if you spend your time worrying what other people think, in a place where no one even knows your name? I’ve asked myself this so many times, but sometimes I just can’t help it. (Photographer: k rupp; Flickr)

  1. The tourist who exhibits a curious combination of being ridiculously over-prepared and totally clueless, and usually has more money than sense

If you’re this kind of tourist, you might as well have ‘this is the first time I’ve ever travelled in my life’ tattooed on your face, because you will always appear as though you’ve just taken your first steps outside your hometown. This tourist is easily deceived and simple to spot, usually clad in very sensible shoes or sandals with thick socks, a hat and/or t-shirt that is clearly merchandise from a bar or theme park, beige or navy blue shorts that reach just below the knee and, more often than not, a very expensive anorak with lots of pockets. Likely to have pricey but comprehensive travel insurance, minimal self-awareness and a vacant expression.

These lost souls act as magnets for any opportunist looking to make some quick cash, and place too much trust in taxi drivers, street traders and other people who realise their ability to fleece them for all they’ve got. Cameras are kept hung around the neck, money belts are worn over the dreadful shorts and city guides and maps are partially tucked into pockets, slightly exposed for easy access when they will definitely be needed later on so as to keep to the strict itinerary of sightseeing. They are unlikely to leave their accommodation without sun cream, hand sanitiser, a spare pair of socks and an endless supply of tissues.

Dear Lord, why does this happen?! (Photographer: Tony Alter; Flickr)

Dear Lord, why does this happen?! (Photographer: Tony Alter; Flickr)

People like this do not intend to be irritating or offensive but invariably are due to their naivety. They will complain about the absence of something purely because they don’t understand that things are different to where they’re from and will obliviously offend locals by asking questions like ‘Is the tap water safe to drink in this restaurant?’

They get excited when they see the words ‘tourist menu’ as it means they are massively increasing their productivity: trying ‘all’ the local specialities at the same time (one more item to tick off the carefully constructed list of things to do). They do not deviate from the itinerary as this is not considered necessary, and can usually be found either on an open-top sightseeing bus, or queuing up for one.

Expect to see these tourists using the binoculars above to 'properly' take in the view. They will be the only ones queuing for such contraptions except petulant five-year-olds. (Photographer: Andy Arthur; Flickr)

These tourists also pay to use the above contraptions to ‘properly’ take in the view. They will be the only ones queuing except petulant five-year-olds and their tired parents. (Photographer: Andy Arthur; Flickr)

  1. The tourist who is ignorant of the fact that people actually live, work and generally exist in the place they’re visiting

Tourists in this category generally make an absolute nuisance and spectacle of themselves every time they go abroad and tend to be thoroughly loathed by everyone who encounters them — they are the very reason why ‘tourist’ is now often considered a dirty word. They are also the kind of people who clap and cheer when an aeroplane lands at its destination (no more needs to be said on this part, it’s too awful to think about). Continue reading

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Different types of tourists: 4, 5 and 6 

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Unravelling 'the tourist'

The term ‘tourist’ is far more complex than many of us are willing to admit. Characters in literature and film attempt to negotiate the difference between ‘tourist’ and ‘traveller’ in everything from Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel ‘The Sheltering Sky’, to 2014 film ‘The Inbetweener’s 2′ (albeit in very, very different ways). I realised recently that ‘tourist’ is increasingly becoming a derogatory term, and isn’t only used in this way by people with a misguided superiority complex. So, in this series I’m going to attempt to unravel ‘the tourist’, looking at who and what it means and why we might not be happy to identify as one.

In the first part of my series on tourism I looked at three different types of tourist and all their amusing and irritating habits. I promised to deliver three more, so keep reading for numbers 4, 5 and 6. Remember, these are written from my own personal observations and are intended to amuse, not offend!

4. The tourist who refuses to be labelled as one and is partial to weeks or months of aimless wandering seeking the meaning of life (usually unemployed with a privileged upbringing)

It’s true, travel educates you better than almost anything else. To this tourist though, part of this education means getting ‘meaningful’ tattoos or dreadlocks, snubbing major attractions in favour of tiny cafés that only serve gluten-free muffins and kale smoothies and pretending to be one of the locals (without knowing a word of the local language). Expect phrases such as these to be haughtily spouted at you: ‘I prefer to call myself a traveller’, or ‘Well, I may only be visiting right now but I’m actually thinking of moving here one day.’

Robert Gourley

The kale smoothie needs to be served in a mason jar and come with a straw. This ensures it is ‘unique’ in some way (drinking out of a glass has been done to death really, hasn’t it?) (PhotographerL Robert Gourley; Flickr)

These tourists are often respected by their peers back home for being considered ‘individual’ or ‘wild’, usually due to their supposedly unique preferences. However, when faced with people they believe are similar to themselves (hipsters) during a trip abroad, they are rejected on the grounds that their knowledge about ‘non-mainstream culture’ fails to extend beyond a certain set of topics. These frequently include heavy debates about: Florence and the Machine’s contribution to music, the importance of including okra in your diet, why falafel has become clichéd, and why a revolution is necessary (to improve animal welfare, eradicate poverty and overthrow the government… except it’s just easier to drink herbal tea all day). Tourist Number 4 has usually been raised very well indeed and has no idea what it’s like to work for anything, but expresses disdain at their upper/middle-class privileged upbringing and seeks out opportunities to ‘rough it up a bit’ and ‘live on the edge’ in a bid to broaden their horizons.

Lars K Jensen

Sometimes it’s better to just stay quiet. (Photographer: Lars K Jensen; Flickr)

This species of tourist can be found sneering at ‘the privileged rich’ and failing to understand irony, overusing words like ‘rad’, ‘man’ and ‘dude’, preaching faux-intellectual theories to anyone who’ll listen and basking on hostel bunk beds in partially-torn clothing playing a battered acoustic guitar. Tourist Number 4 will also probably refuse to call their trip a ‘holiday’ but rather a ‘journey’ (of self-discovery, often funded by parents). These are usually the ‘gap-yah’ kids: avoid at all costs if you have to work for a living, you’ll get angry.

 5. The tourist with so much money they’re blind to everything else

This one is envied by most due the obviously affluent lifestyle that seems to be second nature to them. Generally, this envy is often covered up and expressed as ‘pity’ for those poor souls who’ll never know what it’s like to doss down in a filthy hostel and wake up covered in sweat and suspicious-looking hairs, before cramming yourself into a packed coach reserved only for those who can’t afford a train but are too scared to hitchhike.

Chris Page

Sure, Swarovski is very pretty, but is it really necessary to visit it every time you go abroad? (Photographer: Chris Page; Flickr)

This tourist never shops around for the best deals because it just isn’t necessary to do so. The ‘best hotel’ in ‘the best part of town’ will be booked, just ‘because’. Does that restaurant have any Michelin stars and require a reservation? No? It can’t be that good then. ‘Filthy markets’ will be avoided because Swarovski, Louis Vuitton and Lacoste are down the next street (for some reason, this tourist gets excited about this, despite the fact that one can find these stores all over the world).    Continue reading

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