How to be a traveler not a tourist

Cody and I have been to a number of countries (23) between the two of us with the goal of always being a traveler not a tourist! We’ve traveled alone and in big groups – but one thing has stayed the same no matter where we travel. We are not tourists!

Our Adventure Wall - 1 photo for each country we've been to together!
Our Adventure Wall – One photo for each country we’ve been to together!

What does that mean exactly, you might ask? Here are things that we keep in mind while planning, preparing, and enjoying a trip!

Go in with a plan

If you are wandering around with your face buried in a map, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. If you know where you want to go and what you want to do, you can go into your travels with confidence! Plan out your stops beforehand and take a look at maps and directions ahead of time.

At on of Cody’s home-stays in Germany, they spent the afternoon talking and walking around the local park

That being said – don’t be afraid to be a little spontaneous. Some of our greatest travel moments have been moments that happened out of the blue. These moments, usually at places the locals choose to be, are so much fun.

Know the culture and get to know the culture

Go in knowing what to expect. Will the people around you be speaking the same language as you? Do the women all wear skirts? Is it disrespectful to No matter where you go, it’s a safe bet that the locals won’t be wearing passports around their necks!

When Alyssa traveled to Estonia, she was able to spend a day in a local elementary school! It was a great way to get to know the culture!

While you’re there, get the most out of your travel experiences by immersing yourself in the culture. It can be cool to see the touristy places, but spend a minute at those places and head a little off the beaten path!

Be a normal human

The main point here has to do with language barriers. When you are speaking, don’t speak louder to try and be heard or understood. This one probably sounds a little crazy, but we’ve run into it more than once. When we were in Costa Rica, we were up in the mountains in the rainforest. It was SO COOL, and the locals spoke Spanish! Another traveler in the same lodge wanted cookies and kept asking in English. When they didn’t understand he just KEPT ASKING getting LOUDER and SLOWWWWER every time. Everyone was so uncomfortable! You’re much better off asking if someone else could translate for you.

Taking a guided tour of Volcan Tenorio in Costa Rica with a local from our lodge

Bonus to being a traveler not a tourist

When you travel like a local, you often save money! Places that are often visited by tourists are often much higher in price. Being willing to try local places and diving into the culture a little can save you money in your travels!

So, how do you plan a trip though?

Our basic, bare-bones strategy for being a traveler not a tourist boils down to this*:
1) Go to a new place.
2) Quickly check out the touristy stuff.
3) Find where the locals prefer to spend time.

*Except at Disney. At Disney, all bets are off and we will immerse ourselves in all things touristy. But really, Disney is its own little world, and the culture is touristy.