August 1, 2017

"What do you think the difference is between a tourist and a traveler?"

This is something I originally posted 4 years ago, at a time when I had the comments turned off. I wanted to read it again and think about the subject, and since I never exposed it to comments the first time, I thought I'd post it again here today:
"I think a tourist is usually someone who is on a time budget. A tourist is out to see sights, usually which have been enumerated for him in a guidebook. I think there’s a deeper degree of curiosity in a traveler."

So it's a continuum, and if you want to move to the extreme good side of that continuum, perhaps you ought never to leave your home town. The quote is from Philip Caputo, author of "The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, From Key West to the Arctic Ocean," and he's dialoguing with William Least Heat-Moon, author of "Blue Highways: A Journey into America."

Heat-Moon reframes the tourist/traveler distinction in terms of destinations: "let’s pick Arizona — those tourists are likely to head for the Grand Canyon, whereas a traveler in Arizona might light out for Willcox. Why somebody would want to visit Willcox, I don’t know, other than to see what’s there. Ask questions: Who was Willcox? What kind of place is it? A tidy little place, by the way."

You go to all that effort to drive way the hell out somewhere, and then you just check out some little towns? Why didn't you just go to all the little places within a close radius of your hometown? That's what doesn't make sense. Heat-Moon comes right out and admits he sees no sense in his own idea.
Here are these 2 big travel writers, and they trash the tourism and hew to the old cliché that one ought to be a traveler, not a tourist. But they can't really explain the worth of this travel that isn't tourism. Unspoken is the reality that for each of them, travel is their work, if they are travel writers. Those who get paid for a particular type of work may find it hard to explain the value of the activity to someone who isn't getting paid but must in fact pay.

They do recommend writing as a way to "deepen the travel" — but writing is a way to deepen whatever it is you do, wherever you are. How do you decide what it is you will do? Let's say you buy into the importance of depth. Is traveling around, going slowly, going to small places, journaling, really worthwhile? Most of our depth comes from the life we live at home, and if we were really observant we would never run out of things to perceive and contemplate at  home.

2 of my favorite quotes are on this topic. First, from my favorite movie "My Dinner with Andre":
I mean, you know, there was a time when you could have just, for instance, written, I don't know, Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen! 
Talk about close observation, sharp writing, and sticking within a short radius at home.
And I'm sure the people who read it had a pretty strong experience. I'm sure they did. I mean, all right, now you're saying that people today wouldn't get it, and maybe that's true, but, I mean, isn't there any kind of writing, or any kind of a play that--I mean: isn't it still legitimate for writers to try to portray reality so that people can see it? I mean, really! Tell me: why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean...I mean: is Mount Everest more "real" than New York? I mean, isn't New York "real"? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean... I mean, isn't there just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest? I mean, what do you think? You see, I think that not only is there nothing more real about Mount Everest, I think there's nothing that different, in a certain way. I mean, because reality is uniform, in a way. So that if you're--if your perceptions--I mean, if your own mechanism is operating correctly, it would become irrelevant to go to Mount Everest, and sort of absurd! Because, I mean, it's just--I mean, of course, on some level, I mean, obviously it's very different from a cigar store on Seventh Avenue, but I mean...
The other quote is from one of my favorite books, "Walden," by Henry David Thoreau: "I have travelled a good deal in Concord..." Concord! Not even Massachusetts. Concord. Of course, he didn't have a car.

But then again, he didn't have the internet.

Unspoken: Does Althouse ever leave Madison?

ADDED: A reader quotes my "Those who get paid for a particular type of work may find it hard to explain the value of the activity to someone who isn't getting paid but must in fact pay" and says that "made me think of this sublimely wonderful passage from Moby Dick":
Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid, -- what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!

82 comments:

johns said...

I think "traveler" is a personal characteristic. What kind of person is he? He is a traveler. A tourist is any schmuck who takes a tour somewhere.

Michael K said...

A traveller to Arizona might choose Tubac, one of the oldest settlements in Arizona.

It was first settled in 1732 and garrisoned in 1752.

It has 1,000 art galleries and 10,000 residents.

Fernandinande said...

I think a tourist does what you say a traveler does and a traveler is someone who's going to a destination - like a truck driver.

When I'm a tourist I try to avoid other tourists - go to a National Forest rather than a National Park - but that doesn't make me special.

DKWalser said...

The quote from Moby Dick reminded me of a conversation with my son last week. For the umpteenth time he opined that he could see nor reason for Moby Dick or books by Dickens to still exist. He reads a lot -- just nothing that might have once been considered a 'great work'. For the umpteenth time I told him that great literature can help him gain insights into the human condition like nothing else can. Sigh. He never was into sports or great books -- two things I was passionate about. He's a very good man with a fine family of his own. Still, he's missing out on so much.

Now I want to reread Moby Dick.

Lost My Cookies said...

A tourist goes to Niagara Falls. A traveller goes over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

God that sounds snooty. A tourist goes to Ripley's Believe it or Not museum at Niagara Falls. A traveller visits all the local microbreweries.

brylun said...

Am I a tourist or a traveler when I go to India I fly into Delhi, then go to Mathura, Agra, Jaipur, Amritsar, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Bodhgaya, Patna, Kolkata, Mumbai and Goa in a month?

tcrosse said...

A tourist is some schmo who isn't as sophisticated as us travelers.
As someone who has sailed both as a sailor and as a passenger, I can agree with Melville to a point. As a passenger the hours are better.

john said...

Rex Allen.

ndspinelli said...

brylun, You are a meth addict tourist.

rhhardin said...

The tourist is the girlfriend who wants to go somewhere and the traveler is the boyfriend who's going with her.

mockturtle said...

I am a traveler, not a tourist. Willcox, AZ, has nothing to commend it. But southeast of Willcox are the Chiricahua Mountains, very worth exploring. There are many scenic and worthwhile places in Arizona and none involve towns.

ndspinelli said...

This is the typical semantics post. Ham n' egger attorneys love semantics. Althouse doesn't like to travel. She is a functional agoraphobic.

Bill Peschel said...

I can see the difference between a traveller and a tourist, but I would not ascribe one with "more curiosity" or "more intelligence" or "more better." That's a presumptuous assumption.

Maybe the tourist doesn't have the time to travel. Or maybe they want to sate their curiosity about a place they've read about for a long time. I remember as an adult looking at a detailed map of the New York City area and realizing just how many geographic names triggered a memory of a book, a movie, a joke, a bit of graffiti, even though I had never physically lived there or visited it.

We may be tourists on the ground, but travellers in our heads.

buwaya said...

I disagree about paying.
If you are paid you have responsibilities and worries.
You have taken another mans salt and are not a free man.
You can't go where you will and do as you like.

If you pay, and especially if you are rich, you are free.

That is, I think, also a difference between the traveler and the tourist.
The tourist is constrained, by his own lack of imagination if nothing else.

MikeD said...

You want a true description of a "Traveler"? Read this great book:
A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler
https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B000XUBBPK/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title

jimbino said...

A tourist speaks only English and brings along a camera to take selfies in scenery others have extolled. A traveler circumnavigates the globe with foreign-language grammar books, camping gear, climbing equipment and a shortwave radio.

Michael K said...

When I took my kids to Alaska, I insisted they read Michener's "Alaska."

I'm not sure they all read it but I tried.

When I took them to Europe we went historic places but we stayed and did not just go by and look.

Here are a few places they saw over a week's visit.

My middle daughter has spent a year in Spain, several of those weeks in Morocco working on her Arabic that she reads and speaks. She has been to China multiple times and spent a couple of summers in college working on an archeological dig at 14,000 feet on the volcano about Quioto, the capital. She was in charge of a trench because her Spanish was better than the others.

We spent a week in Madrid so she could go to a conference held only every ten years on the Andalusian period of Spain. That's when she was working on a PhD.

That's one difference.

Michael K said...

Above Quito...

Tommy Duncan said...

And then there are "fellow travelers" who go where the narrative needs them.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

A tourist goes to places to see famous things and places. They do this to say they've been there. Took pictures to prove it. Brag about it to their friends. Sort of like a bucket list of accomplishments.

A traveler goes places....maybe even the same places as the tourist, but mostly go off of the beaten path. They go because they are curious. Want to see new things. Meet people. Tend travel the road less taken. Find interest and joy in the small unexpected.

The tourist is about "the destination". The traveler is about "the journey".

dustbunny said...

You can not talk or write about the tourist vs traveler conundrum without mentioning Paul Bowles' 'The Sheltering Sky'. The main characters are adamant in their identification as travelers.

Seeing Red said...

Take the scenic tour from Phoenix to the GC. I love visiting Jerome!

Seeing Red said...

Scenic road, not tour.

MathMom said...

dustbunny -

I remembered that movie when this question was raised here. They would have been better off being tourists than travelers - might have gotten prompt medical attention when it was required, eh?

SukieTawdry said...

So, what? One can't be a traveler and a tourist? Can't travel the highways and the bi-ways or be enthralled by the great wonders of the world and it's little places? Can't take pleasure in a thorough exploration of immediate environs and the larger world?

Who's trying to make us fit ourselves into one of these boxes? I'm a traveler who's a tourist along the way.

tim maguire said...

Caputo's definition sounds about right. A tourist has a week or two to fit in whatever they can, and then they have to get back to work. A traveler's time is more free, their visit open ended. They will stay until they choose to not stay anymore, giving them at least the potential to take in more, to become part of the local life, rather than be quick viewers of it. (I almost said "observer of it" but a tourist isn't even necessarily that.)

The vagaries of life ensure that most of us are tourists; few have the luxury of being travellers even if they have the desire.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

From Mark Twains's Innocents Abroad:

"But we love the Old Travelers. We love to hear them prate and drivel and lie. We can tell them the moment we see them. They always throw out a few feelers; they never cast themselves adrift till they have sounded every individual and know that he has not traveled. Then they open their throttle valves, and how they do brag, and sneer, and swell, and soar, and blaspheme the sacred name of Truth! Their central idea, their grand aim, is to subjugate you, keep you down, make you feel insignificant and humble in the blaze of their cosmopolitan glory!"

tim maguire said...

If you're wondering if your definition of "traveler" sounds snooty, it's because you are assigning moral superiority to something that is primarily the result of privilege.

SukieTawdry said...

The main characters in The Sheltering Sky did indeed consider themselves travelers. They were also two of the more foolish people in all of literature. Bunch of existential hooey.

buwaya said...

"If you're wondering if your definition of "traveler" sounds snooty, it's because you are assigning moral superiority to something that is primarily the result of privilege."

Indeed. Privilege it is, no evasion needed. Travel is an elite endeavor. It requires unlimited time and complete liberty, neither really available to the common worker, ever.

Sally327 said...

I've read a lot of Paul Theroux's books about his various travels around the world and, based on that, I would say that a traveler is someone who looks to experience life the way the people who live all the time in that place experience it. He doesn't mind a certain amount of discomfort and even danger.

A tourist typically wants to be entertained, preferably with minimal discomfort and no danger. A tourist spends money and supports the local economy. He typically goes where he's wanted and he's wanted (or at least tolerated) because he spends money and supports the local economy. A traveler goes to places whether he's wanted there or not. Probably preferring the latter (within reason). His presence doesn't usually mean much to the local economy.

Theroux quote: A tourist doesn't know where he's been. A traveler doesn't know where he's going.

MayBee said...

A traveler lives in a trailer home, gets married at a very young age, and charges up front to repave your driveway and then never shows up.

MayBee said...

Call me a tourist or a traveler, whatever you like.

Me? I just enjoy seeing things, meeting people, eating food, taking in experiences, and thinking about them afterwards.

Balfegor said...

I like doing touristy things (even in DC, where my office is), but I find the pace a lot of serious tourists set to be just too fast -- they have a checklist of things they want to do and see and plan out their schedule exactly. They're like the gunners of the travelling world.

I like seeing the famous sites, but also just wandering around enjoying the feel of a place (if it is a place I like) and enjoy returning time and again to the same sights in different years and different seasons. I walk around the Tidal Basin in DC every year during the cherry blossom season, sometimes with the crowds, sometimes before or after the big crowds. I wander through Dumbarton Oaks Gardens (in DC) in every season and take photos of the same plants, same buildings, same views, over and over again. I visit Roosevelt Island in spring and autumn, crossing the little footbridge from the Virginia side of the river, and admire the view of the big tree in the marsh in the centre. I am in Tokyo now, and had the pleasure of stopping by Shinobazu pond in Ueno -- a pond I have walked around many, many times -- and seeing that the lotuses were in bloom.

And even in familiar places there's always something new. I've been to Kamakura (just south of Tokyo) many times. I have pictures, again, of the same views year after year -- the big Buddha at Hase, the wooden gate at Kenchouji Temple, the Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine. But I visited Houkokuji (the temple with the bamboo grove in Kamakura) for the first time just a few months ago. And last weekend, for the first time, I went hiking along the hillside path from Zuisenji Temple to Kenchouji, and entered Kenchouji from the back side.

So I like being a tourist, but I like doing it at a more relaxed pace than the serious tourists, and returning to the places I like over and over, mixing in a little bit that is new each time. I wouldn't be pretentious and call myself a "traveller" -- just a relaxed tourist.

buwaya said...

I always think of this, as the epitome of a travelier -

https://archive.org/details/moderntraveller00belluoft

Hilaire Belloc, "The Modern Traveller"

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, Great analysis. We just spent our 40th anniversary in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I always wake early and walk to get coffee. I met to local women at Tim Horton's in Charlottetown. Ann was functionally mentally ill, having been sexually abused as a child[people always tell me their life stories, warts an all]. Ann had never been off the island, but hopes to take a cruise before she dies. Just to Boston or Quebec. Her friend Linda was very normal and looks out for Ann. They told me all about PEI. They went into detail about the harsh winters and alcoholism caused by the gloom and cold. I travel a lot and this is what I love. Fuck the tourist shit.

SukieTawdry said...

MayBee said...A traveler lives in a trailer home, gets married at a very young age, and charges up front to repave your driveway and then never shows up.

You've had experience with travelers?

Sebastian said...

A traveler is a tourist with airs. A tourist is a deplorable traveler.

Now Traveller, that's a different animal entirely.

Rick Turley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Turley said...

Well a Traveller can be a horse.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveller_(horse)

rcocean said...

The only difference between "Tourists" and "Travelers" is $150,000 a year.

rcocean said...

Twain said "A Cauliflower is nothing more that a Cabbage with a college education".

Apply analogy.

rcocean said...

Aren't "Travellers" the PC name for Gypsies?

rcocean said...

BTW, "Heat Moon" was white guy who adopted an "Indian" name to sell books & get AA benefits.

Total fraud.

John said...

I've read several of William Least Heat Moon's books including Blue Highways, River Horse (About a voyage from NY to Seattle (IIRC) in a 20' outboard.

Excellent writer and well worth reading.

Also a bit of a poseur. He has some indian blood but he mainly uses the Least Heat Moon name for its cachet. He seems as wasp as anyone.

John Henry

John said...

I call myself an "Industrial tourist". I get to go to cool places and work with cool people, processes and machines. I often tack a couple days on the end of a trip and go do the tourist things. I will probably have a chance to go back to Yosemite next month. I am definitely going to Bryce Canyon when I go to Vegas to cover a trade show. And so on.

Perhaps I am an industrial traveler? Whichever. Who cares? I'm having too much fun to stop now.

John Henry

Balfegor said...

Re: rcocean:

Aren't "Travellers" the PC name for Gypsies?

I thought Travellers were a kind of Irishman (or a peculiarly Irish kind of gypsy), and the polite name for Gypsies was Romani.

Paddy O said...

A tourist goes to see particular places, enjoying what is unique about that place, as a way of entertainment. The process to getting somewhere else is a means to an end.

A traveler enjoys the process as much, or even more, than the purpose. They find meaning--not just entertainment--in the experiences and tend to invest more of themselves in learning more of the setting beyond the obvious.

Both lack a sense of commitment to a particular destination, however. There can be very thoughtful tourists and very shallow travelers.

John said...

in Nevil Shute's autobiography Slide Rule he quotes someone as saying:

"It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive."

It's stuck in my mind for 30 years now.

I can't find who at the moment. Search has the phrase but not the provenance.

When I had my sailboat, I enjoyed the sailing and being out on the water far more than actually getting anywhere in particular.

John Henry

Michael K said...

"A tourist doesn't know where he's been. A traveler doesn't know where he's going."

One of my patients many years ago was a very interesting guy. He had retired from Young;s Market Co which has a bunch of liquor import licenses. They are no longer a market, Anyway, he retired at 55 and he and his wife moved to Crete, They lived there five years. Never learned a word of Greek but got along fine. After five years, they moved to Paris and spent five years there.

When he turned 65 they moved to southern California and figured medical problems might come up. He had a colonoscopy and the GI guy found the smallest colon cancer I've ever seen. I took it out and he did fine. I was standing in his room talking to him and his woife when my wife called almost hysterical. I thought her car had blown up but it turned out the Challenger had blown up instead.

I've always envied him and his wife. Those are real travelers.


Michael K said...

When I had my sailboat, I enjoyed the sailing and being out on the water far more than actually getting anywhere in particular.

I did too but I got involved in racing and might have had more fun if I had not done so.

Fernandinande said...

Re Winslow - I've been there twice, both times traveling through, without site-seeing, on the way to somewhere else.

Also re Winslow - when I was a tourist in France/Italy/Switzerland and England I never broke out a guide-book or went to known tourist spots or large towns, preferring to ride around (motorcycle) to see what was "out there" (The Truth!). But I was definitely a tourist.

Fernandinande said...

mockturtle said...
Willcox, AZ, has nothing to commend it.


You're right! I was thinking Winslow, but it's not much better.

But southeast of Willcox are the Chiricahua Mountains, very worth exploring.

Yup, used to live there. Plenty of good caves, thousands of birds, wild "pigs".

There are many scenic and worthwhile places in Arizona and none involve towns.

IIRC, Willcox has, or had, "The Thing!", a dried out Indian. And Hitler's Rolls Royce and some "bird eating" tarantulas, also dried out. Classy place.

mockturtle said...

Several people have aptly summed it up: For a traveler, it's about the journey; for a tourist, the destination.

dustbunny said...

MathMom, I think the book was much better than the movie which Bowles regretted. And yes they would have been better off as tourists but the point of the story was that they were bohemians who wanted to get seriously lost. travelers without tour-groups or guidebooks are more adventurous and less risk adverse than tourists. As to the elitist nature of travelers, duh. The whole Hemingway, Fitzgerald lost generation in Paris mythos was based on defying convention (tourist) in favor of the strange and undiscovered, (traveller). Whether any of it was true or anything but romanticism is debatable but it produced some great books. Maybe that is the point.

Fernandinande said...

brylun said...
Am I a tourist or a traveler when I go to India I fly into Delhi, ... and Goa in a month?


Take your pick, it's just a silly word game.

Fernandinande said...

Rick Turley said...
Well a Traveller can be a horse.


Or a member of a gang of Irish thieves.

brylun said...

Hey Michael K, I like your blog, abriefhistory.org!

readering said...

I've never been a traveler in the sense that I've always known my return date for any trip. I think of travel as open-ended. I may change my itinery or not have an itinery when I arrive at the first stop but I always have my return date planned.

readering said...

Might become a traveler when I retire.

brylun said...

I'm a Travelin Man

Humperdink said...
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Humperdink said...

Went to Ambergris Caye, Belize as tourists with my lovely spouse a few years ago. Beautiful place. Went to the mainland one day and hired a driver to take us inland to see the real Belize. Life in their world. It was eye-opening experience. We became travelers for a day.

bagoh20 said...

Perhaps a distinction is that a tourist may be someone who wants to see things, usually known things. Conversely, a traveler wants to be places, often not knowing what is there, and appreciating that mystery especially. A tourist can be digital, while a traveler cannot...yet.

bagoh20 said...

Another distinction is that a traveler is what I want to be, but a tourist is what I often end up as.

William said...

Traveler sounds more adventurous than tourist. It's something you do on your gap year rather than on your vacation......I have enough money to travel and/or tour, but the wish is exceedingly diminished. I sometimes have to travel for family events and find the whole thing a drag. That's the way it goes. You get everything in life you desire at the moment you stop desiring it.....The nice thing about NYC is that the world comes to you, and is mostly within reach of the IRT 7 line.

Humperdink said...

Tourists take the time-tested (and safe) route. The herd mentality. Travelers go to the uncharted areas. A bit riskier.

Mary Beth said...

I like to go places. I'm probably just a tourist, but I don't care what you call it. I've enjoyed the places I've been and am glad I got to spend that time with the people who went with me.

mockturtle said...

Humperdink reports: Went to Ambergris Caye, Belize as tourists with my lovely spouse a few years ago. Beautiful place. Went to the mainland one day and hired a driver to take us inland to see the real Belize. Life in their world. It was eye-opening experience. We became travelers for a day.

When I read that Belize has tarantulas that jump out of trees I crossed it off my list.

Freeman Hunt said...

The difference is defined by the form of insufferability each takes. The tourist is insufferable in kitsch, the traveler in pretension.

Freeman Hunt said...

Hamilton offers another boundary of demarcation. The tourist uses exclamation points in posts about seeing Hamilton. The traveler uses periods.

Mike Wallens said...

Why travel when you can, as this blogger does, see everything on Google Street View?

Freeman Hunt said...

A tourist's relation of a journey often takes the form of a boring list. The traveler's relation often takes the form of a boring narrative.

BN said...

A tourist is an Ugly American. A traveler is a gypsy.The mark and the marker.

JaimeRoberto said...

I was a tourist when I was seeing the sights in Toledo. I was a traveler when I went to the bullfight and took my seat between the bullfighter's family and the old lady who would smack my knee and yell "muy bien" when the bullfighter's did something good.

I was a tourist when I was camping with all the other schmucks in Croatia. I was a traveler when one of those schmucks invited us to dinner in his garden in the Austrian Alps.

I suppose a difference is that a tourist sees the sights. A traveler gets to see how the locals live.

Be said...

I think it depends on how much money you are spending and how much Reality TV you watch.

I did the Schengen Shuffle between the US and France for a good while. It's really interesting the comments I'd get back from Americans (not just East Coasters, but Midwesterners, as well - Topeka / Wichita KS, to be exact), about how 'Inauthentic' my French cuisine was, when I'd invite people over and folks would be expecting "French Cuisine."

zyz65 said...

It's one of those irregular verbs, as in Yes, Minister:

I am a traveller
You are a tourist
He is spoiling the place

PresbyPoet said...

My wife had a childhood friend who had an uncle Louie. He was infamous for driving to the beach, not getting out, turning around and leaving. He had been there, but never was there.

It is like someone who goes to a church, does all the liturgical things in the proper way, but does not know why they are being done. God might ask. "You say the words. Do you mean them?"

So there is a profound difference between someone who goes somewhere, and someone who only goes. In the late 50's my mother died when I was 11. The next two summers my father packed me and 2 younger brothers in his car and we drove thousands of miles. Yet we never went anywhere.

It was only much later I realized what drove my father. He was proud he had been to every state. He would put on slide shows, 50 states in 50 minutes. He had been there, but only to places he had never been.

dustbunny said...
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Danno said...

In short, Smug "Coasties" are travelers, the rest of us are tourists.

BudBrown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucien said...

Freeman Hunt nails it. Both tourists and travellers are insufferable, in different ways.

The tourists are the insufferable families with fanny-packs and T-shirts, maps and guidebooks in their hands, taking pictures of themselves in front of everything, talking too loudly, rushing from place to place on their prepared itinerary.

The travellers are the insufferable pretentious snobs who talk about "experiencing the place like the locals do/living like the locals do." Yet travellers somehow never arrive at their destination and work some bullshit job for 8-10 hours a day, buy groceries to eat an unremarkable dinner, then watch some TV and go to sleep, the way the locals do.

Travellers go to the bullfights, talk to a local, and think they've lived like the locals - even though plenty of locals have never been to a bullfight. Travellers "go where they want, whether they're wanted or not", treating the local population in e.g. Belize like animals in a zoo whose daily lives are there for the travellers' education and amusement.

Relax. Go where you want and do what you want to do. You're a human being who happens to be away from home and there is no right or wrong way to do that.