I have noticed quite a few articles by fellow travel types discussing the differences between a traveler and a tourist, whether or not one is better than the other and so forth. Ultimately this is a discussion of pure semantics and I don’t think it is very important. For what it is worth, while I think it would be romantic and Indiana Jones-like to self-identify as a traveler, I am probably just a tourist. I do not earn my living from the travel industry and ultimately, I’m on the road at most a few weeks a year. So, I therefore lay claim to the title of tourist. That being said, I am not a touron.
I first encountered this word when I was a college student in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is inundated with millions of tourists every year. Of these millions, there is a not-so-insignificant percentage which may be described as being tourons.
The Urban Dictionary defines a Touron as
“The derogatory term combines the words “Tourist” with “Moron” to describe any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity.”
Ultimately, a touron is a person who apparently hates to leave home, but for some reason has decided to spend coin and time to do just that. After a recent trip to New York, I was reminded of how awful these individuals can be and as a public service want to provide some tips on how not to be a touron, in the classical sense.
You Are What You Eat
I took this picture in New York and I think it is self-explanatory. Why would someone travel from the far reaches of the globe, arrive at one of the true culinary capitals of the planet only to eat at an establishment advertising itself as a tourist restaurant? This is indeed a touron maneuver. NYC is unfortunately not alone in this phenomenon, there are similar restaurants in every major tourist area. I touch on this briefly in my e-Book (plug, plug, plug), but not only do you do yourself an injustice by eating at these restaurants, but they are almost always one of the most expensive options. Rather than eat at a bistro or café adjacent to the major tourist attraction, look for a little, independent restaurant a few streets over. Not only will the food be better, but it will almost certainly be cheaper.
Do Not Declare Yourself a Touron
Living in Washington, DC, I see this all the time, but have also witnessed it around the world. When tourons are on the subway or local bus, they seem to think that they are actually on a resort tram ride. Not only do they refuse to pay any attention to what the local commuting etiquette is, but they many times announce their touronic ways. Case in point: too many times I have seen families on the subway yelling to each other from across the train about their next stop and many times revealing some pretty personal information. A friend told me recently about just such an encounter where the tourons were asking each other their hotel room number, including the name of the hotel itself. You might as well say, please rob me, I am far too dumb to deserve my belongings.
When traveling, it is vital to have at least a modicum of self-awareness. You are a visitor and you should comport yourself as a guest, not an invading army. Pay attention to what local people are doing, and then do that! Also be a smart traveler. No matter how much you try to blend in, you usually won’t. This inability to blend in will make you a more attractive target for thieves, from purse snatchers to pickpockets. That is why it is important to take a few more security measures than you normally would at home. No matter how comfortable you are in a new city, a basic level of caution and self-awareness will make your travels much more safe.
Get a Clue or Go Home
Theoretically you are traveling to a new place because you want to learn more about it, experience the culture and experience new sights and sounds. If none of these are true, then you should spend your money on a new TV for your family room, because you will get much more out of it.
Perhaps I am being unduly harsh, but I get very frustrated when I am at a tourist attraction and overhear ridiculously ignorant conversations. Once again, in New York I heard some doozies. The best (worst?) I heard was a wife telling her husband that she didn’t want to go up to the Empire State Building Obervatory because they had been seeing New York all day. There’s also the example of the family I saw in Dublin with a CHECKLIST of all the major sites in hand. They apparently would rush to the next site, look for 5 seconds in a Clark W. Griswold manner, check the box (literally!) and move on to the next spot.
I will not wax poetic here, but suffice it to say that if you are unwilling to stray from the tourist path at least once or twice, then you will have gained very little from your trip.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a tourist. As I said, I am one several times a year. However, there are some seemingly basic considerations one must take, otherwise you too will be just another touron.