It is interesting being a traveler when I live in one of the most tourism-based places in the world.
Hawaii is famous all over the world and hailed as a place full of culture, sunshine, and good times. I have grown up being surrounded by tourism, working to serve tourists, and being a part of a place both reliant upon and also somewhat repulsed by its tourism status.
Living in such a tourist-centered place has given me a lot of experience in how to act as a visitor in my travels. The words “tourist” and “traveler” are often juxtaposed, and I abide by this somewhat unspoken rule of phrasing as well. To me, a tourist is someone who visits a place for the typical sites, who expects to be served, and who comes to see a place, not to interact with it or learn from it. A traveler is a seeker of inspiration and information, who visits a place to become a part of it or to grow from the experience. Due to my experience with tourists, I have always strived to be a traveler, and I have worked to amend my travel habits as much as I can to fit the role. Here are some of my personal goals as a traveler when visiting a place, so as not to come across as a (rude) tourist:
Be aware: This includes being aware of how your culture may not be the same as the one you are visiting and making an effort to be flexible and understanding of those around you, especially those who live in that place.
Be willing to learn: Do not come to a place expecting to know it all. Be open to learning the language, culture, and aspects of day-to-day living. (My number one suggestion, especially for those looking to come to Hawaii, is to at least attempt to learn how to pronounce some words in the local language. It goes a long way to show respect for the place and the people.)
Put your privilege away: No matter where you go, there are people there just living their lives, just like everywhere else. Their neighborhood or city is not your theme park, and people there do not exist to serve you. In most tourist-heavy places, many local people are essentially forced into the tourism industry due to a lack of other work. Respect that, and be aware that your travels may make up a week or two of your life, but these people need to live and work here every day.
Give back: This is something that I always work to improve on in my travels. I feel that you should always leave a place better than how you found it, even if it is in some small, unnoticed way. This can be done through anything, like volunteering, to giving a service worker an extra tip or a smile. Or my favorite, asking everyone that I can how their day is going, and genuinely listening to what they have to say. You can do so much for someone just by showing that you care.
Always try something new: This is more of a personal self-improvement goal, but I think that it plays a role in how you interact with the world around you as a traveler. Whether it’s a language, food, or cultural custom, making the effort to partake in the culture and place around you is a key to being a traveler, rather than just a tourist.
Exploring the world should be fun and accessible for everyone. It is not my intention to shame anyone who may have a different method of traveling than I do, but I do feel that it is important to provide information and ideas for tourists and travelers as someone who has been both a visitor as well as on the other end of the tourism industry.