Tourist or traveler - what's the difference and which is better? For the purpose of this discussion, a tourist is someone on a short trip (up to around four weeks) that is just taking annual leave from work. A traveler is someone who has quit their job, become a digital nomad, or has taken an extended leave off work to travel for much longer.

These modes of travel offer very different perspectives and benefits. Traveling full time is not for many people, but for others, it's a dream come true!



If one is a tourist, then one is on a holiday. With this style of travel, one will typically pick one or two specific countries or locations to visit. One will normally want to make the most of one's time and so will plan one's trip carefully. Or one will just stay at a beach resort and enjoy sunbathing and cocktails.

  • Tourist: On Holiday - Often two Weeks
  • Budget: Much Higher
  • Daily Schedule: Packed With Things To See and Do
  • Pics: Tons Of Pics Every Day

The daily budget of a tourist is generally much higher. This is the time to have a good time and live it up. One is likely to stay at nice accommodation, go and see expensive attractions, and enjoy various activities. This is the good life and time to spend and enjoy life.

Related: 10 Dream Jobs For People Who Love To Travel, Revealed


A traveler is someone traveling for an extended period of time. This can be done in many ways. One can take a "gap year" - after finishing high school and before entering university, just travel for a year. Alternatively, it is common to take the gap year after finishing university but before starting a job. This is often on a shoestring budget. The trip can be financed by volunteering in countries around the world. This is often where one is hosted by a family, business, or farm and does some amount of work in extend for bed and board. It is an awesome way to enjoy a cultural exchange.

  • Budget: Managed To Last Long Term
  • Gap Year: Take A Year Off And Do Something Completely Different Somewhere Else In The World

Often travelers will quit their jobs for a year and travel. This is very common in Europe, but perhaps less common in America. Often employers will reluctantly agree that as they are good workers, their job will be there when they get back.

  • Options: Living Off Savings, Volunteering, Working And Traveling, Digital Nomad

One can also become a digital nomad and work online. In theory, any job that can be done from home on a laptop can be done remotely, if it can be done remotely, it can be down anywhere where there is internet (depending on the security and timezones, etc. of the company). Just move one's home office to Bora Bora in Tahiti or to an Air BnB on the Greek islands!

Other travelers look for freelancing work that can be done online - they look for work just made for traveling. This can include data analyst, software engineer, online English (or other) tutoring, content management, online forum community management, proofreading, and much more. There are many ways of making money while traveling.

  • Online Jobs: Opportunities Online Are Limitless Now!

Travelers are typically traveling at a much slower pace and will often spend days to months just working or chilling somewhere in the world. They may rent an Airbnb in a country for a couple of months. Or work on a farm for a couple of months. But the pace is different as is the budget.

While a tourist may be spending well over $200.00 daily, a traveler may only be spending $50.00 daily (or even $20.00 or zero for savvy backpackers). This of course varies wildly.

Another difference is that whereas a tourist will often choose a place and see it superficially in a short time period. A traveler will choose a region and will often get to know it much better.

Related: Happiness Is Packing For An Adventure Somewhere Far: Packing Tips For Solo Backpackers

Which is For You?

Which is better is entirely a matter of opinion and circumstance. A tourist is settled in their own country and just wants a break and to see something different. They are settled and have a family or otherwise are happy where they are.

A traveler seeks traveling to be a lifestyle - a way of life (at least for a while). The road can be someone's home. That is of course not for most folks. Most folks want a sense of a place to call home. One compromise that many travelers come to is choosing a country to live in for a year or two, and then move to another.

This is the lifestyle of many NGOs (non-government organizations - normally non-profit charity and development organizations in developing countries). Other people often in this category are workers for the United Nations seeking international postings, and embassy staff seeking international postings.

Next: Here's Everything Travelers Shouldn't Be Doing While On Vacation From Work