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The average tourist

I snickered when I read this quote-because it may be me;

"The average tourist considers himself savvier than the average
tourist."

I think I read it in Seth Kugel’s book, Rediscovering Travel: A Guide to the Globally Curious. http://sethkugel.com/book/

It makes me wonder, what is the average tourist, and who here considers him/herself savvier than the average tourist?

Posted by
21709 posts

Having spent almost a full year in Europe over the past nearly thirty years, I consider myself more experienced than the average tourist. It is questionable if that makes me more savvier than the average tourist. But I do believe that I am more comfortable about moving about Europe and am not tied to the idea of advance reservations for everyday.

Posted by
4979 posts

I think the quote fits a lot of us.

I think Stan and I are a bit different from whatever the average tourist is, in that we do a lot of pre-trip study. We read up on the history and art of wherever it is we're going, starting months in advance. And I'm a language junkie, so I always make sure I know something of the language. This is in addition to checking out museums and other points of interest; museum visiting is probably our main activity while in Europe.

When we travel in the States, we drive, and in the back seat of the car is a box full of reference books: geology, birds, wildflowers, animals, history.... We consult these on the road, and they make up the bulk of our evening campsite reading.

Does this make us savvier? Nope, but the preparation suits our personalities and our travel style. Our lifestyle, really. We just love learning. As our favorite Roman guide, Francesca Caruso says: "The more you know, the more you see."

Interesting topic, Allan, as usual.

Posted by
365 posts

If comparing myself to others on Rick Steves tours is any indication, I’m about average. I’m always amazed at those who arrive on those tours having read nothing and sometimes don’t even know the itinerary and are just following their spouse or partner. But those aren’t the majority. Most of us have done plenty of either traveling (with or without tours) or research into the places we go.

Posted by
6622 posts

I like to quote one of the bus drivers on a RS tour, who told me he loved driving RS tour groups, because we were " . . . above average - for Americans".

I think just wanting to know more about where they are going, knowing there are questions to ask to be prepared, and knowing where to go for that info (like, here), makes someone above average. The awareness that things might be different from they are used to back home, is the first step.

Posted by
2295 posts

The awareness that things might be different from they are used to
back home, is the first step.

Awareness, but how about also acceptance? How many times have we overheard someone complain about things not being the same as home? Would that be a below average tourist?

Posted by
6622 posts

Allan, perhaps acceptance is the second level, Grasshopper.🤔

Posted by
4451 posts

I think the fact that the forum participants are here both seeking information & willing to share experiences to help other travelers puts this group in the above average category.

I feel like each trip has taught me more about how to be a better traveler. It’s been a progression of learning & wanting to learn over many years. But, I’m not putting myself in a general “expert” category because although I feel extremely comfortable traveling all around Europe - either with my husband or solo, I would not currently feel the same way if I was heading on a solo trip to Asia.

Posted by
1884 posts

This reminds me that I heard that something like 70 or 80% of drivers believe they are better-than-average drivers. A lot of them must be wrong.

I'm not in the middle of the avant-garde here among RS forum regulars, if only because many of you have a head start on me by a decade or so :-P

In support of the theme of ~the more you know the more you see~ I had a friend from school who was studying landscape architecture, and going for a walk with him for an hour in the woods was a lot more illuminating than doing the same walk with an economics major. OTOH, the econ major followed Major League Baseball, and going to a SF Giants game with him was a lot more intriguing than doing so with the gardener, who knew less about baseball than I do.

So, average or not, choose your company and your guides with enrichment in mind and you'll reap the benefits.

Posted by
1015 posts

I know I'm savvier than I was, and I hope that if I am lucky enough to continue travelling, I will continue to gain savviness. Don't often bother comparing myself to others, as I don't find it to be a productive use of time.

And, riffing off the quote in the OP, I would say "The average traveler considers her/himself to be savvier than the average tourist." :-)

Posted by
5617 posts

It would seem, however, that the average tourist isn’t aware they’re an average tourist. How savvy is that? Does it take one to recognize one?

Yogi claimed to be smarter than the average bear. Maybe he was right, maybe not, but was dressed up with a necktie. That, and the pork pie hat, did make him stand out.

Posted by
4684 posts

I think there are many savvy tourists on this forum, and I’m not one of them!

Years ago when visiting Greece, I got a t-shirt for one of my boys with a quote from Socrates that read:

The more you know, the more you realize you know nothing.

Definitely true!

Posted by
5251 posts

I'm going to look for Kugel's book. I always enjoyed his writing in the NY Times. As for us on this forum, it's just like Lake Wobegon, where "all the children are above average."

Posted by
2295 posts

When we travel in the States, we drive, and in the back seat of the
car is a box full of reference books: geology, birds, wildflowers,
animals, history.... We consult these on the road, and they make up
the bulk of our evening campsite reading.

Does this make us savvier? Nope, but the preparation suits our
personalities and our travel style. Our lifestyle, really. We just
love learning.

Jane, I've been thinking about this comment in relation to something my wife said yesterday while we were discussing travel guidebooks. We loaded up on RS books when he had that $5 sale earlier this year. But we've hardly touched them. My wife said they're full of practical knowledge to make us more savvy travellers, but right now we're leaning toward books like DK Eyewitness or even historical books or movies because what we want right now is inspiration. From that preliminary inspiration we tend to go in your direction and learn more about what we're going to see, not how we're going to see it. Like you, this style enhances the overall value of the trip and makes us more appreciate of what we're seeing. The savvy planning is one of the last steps of our travel planning.

Posted by
4979 posts

Allan, after seeing this thread, I looked for Kugel's book at the library, and found it! I remember having looked for it when it was first published, but neither of our local library systems had it, or had ordered it. I did find it this time, and am enjoying it very much. Thank you for the quote, and the reminder of a book worth reading.

Posted by
2295 posts

Hope you enjoy it Jane. I thought the first chapter was outstanding, and the next few were really good, but I got a bit bored near the end. I've been reading some reviews and many find him too preachy that his travel style is better than any others. I didn't find that, but I did think his style wouldn't work for me. But a different opinion is what made the book interesting.