How To Be A Traveler And Not Just A Tourist

Sure you love traveling. You’ve been to more countries than your fingers can count. Your Facebook and Instagram are filled with lots of travel and selfie photos all over the world. You are a self-proclaimed traveler, or so you think.

Are you really a traveler who loves to try new things and meet strangers along the way?

Or are you a tourist who just loves taking pictures from the comfort of your tour bus while holding a checklist of “must-sees”?

If you really want to be a traveler rather than a tourist, please put down that selfie stick and try these tips.


Skip the hotels.

sonyas garden room
Sonya’s Garden Bed and Breakfast | Photo from awitan ko ikaw

When traveling to foreign lands, make it a point to forego staying in posh hotels with rooms complete with a jacuzzi and room service. Instead, try checking out nice and affordable bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or guesthouses. This is a great way to meet fellow travelers who share similar interests as you.

Come to think of it, you won’t be spending much time inside your room because you’ll probably be out most of the time so what’s the use of costly, luxurious rooms when you’ll just literally stay there only at night? Also, there’s nothing more liberating than to prepare your own breakfast together with other backpackers from all over the world. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even try couch surfing.




Skip joining tours and roam the place with the use of a map and Google. Before going to a new place, make sure you’ve done your research in advance. From what bus to ride from the airport, to the nearest subway in your hostel, down to the cheapest possible way to commute. Avoid riding cabs unless absolutely necessary.

Don’t be afraid to use public transportation as well because it’s actually the easiest way to mingle and blend in with the locals. Take time to explore new places by foot or even by bicycle. Going on a DIY tour gives you freedom on what you want to do on a certain day and enough time to enjoy the place that really interests you.

Speak the language.

Mines View Park Shoppers in Baguio | Photo by rexfoto54

Nothing is more annoying than tourists who always look for someone who speaks English or their local dialect. Make a little effort to learn to speak the language or dialect of the place where you plan to go. Learning the basic way of saying “hello” or “thank you” is actually the first step. Remember, you are the one visiting their place so learn to adjust. Making an extra effort to converse with locals in their language may even earn you brownie points especially when haggling during shopping.

Never Rush.

What’s the rush? Do you fear of not being able to ascend the summit of Mt. Mayon through an ATV so you need to hurry from one sight to another? Or how about visiting all the beautiful beaches and islands in Coron so you can check in on Foursquare whenever you hop from one island to another? Learn to schedule things slowly because there’s no rule that you need to visit all the famous spots in one place. Not being able to take a photo of the famed Chocolate Hills when you’re in Bohol does not make you any less of a traveler. So please, take time to smell the flower and enjoy the view, like slowly walking down the streets of Vigan at night or sipping a cup of hot chocolate while watching in awe the beautiful sunrise and rolling hills of Batanes. Learning to slow down, especially while traveling, helps you appreciate more the place and understand the daily lives of the locals.

Do what the locals do

Cliché as it may sound, “do as the locals do” should be your number one commandment when traveling so you’ll be able to enjoy the full potential of the place that your are visiting. Research underground bars, restaurants or art shops because you’ll never know what you’ll find. Join local celebrations and party with the locals. Hala Bira with the Aklanons during the Ati-Atihan Festival, experience the real meaning of lent and join the via crucis or the way of the cross in town of Boac, Marinduque, and dance in the street to the beat of drums with the Cebuanos during their famous Sinulog Festival.

Leave your camera.

This is probably one of the hardest things for you to do because bringing a camera, DSLR to say the least, has, perhaps, become a necessity for all travelers. However, there are travels that don’t necessarily require you to bring your heavy equipment. Not only it slows you down, it also limits your movement. Can you just imagine how you will bungee jump in Danao, Bohol or parasail in Boracay if you have a big camera hanging around your neck? In today’s era of smartphones, any traveler can just document his/her travel with the use of a phone.

Get lost.

Never let your trip be defined by just the top tourists sites that you have listed in your itinerary. Let your hair down and get wonderfully lost. Don’t be afraid to wander, especially in discovering new neighborhoods or random roads because you never know where they might lead. Whenever possible, choose adventure. Just always keep your safety in mind and always trust your instinct.