The traveller vs. tourist mindset 

Bob Proctor once said “Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.” Books such as The Alchemist and The Secret for example reiterate this school of thought, bringing concepts such as the law of attraction or manifesting things into existence come to the fore. From a personal finance perspective, I often speak about the money mindset in my workshops, and how it influences our relationship with money or how we approach life in general.

A recent conversation with a friend who does not travel much left me puzzled because when he does travel, his experience is limited to the tourist destinations and iconic landmarks from the places he visits . Not only does he believe that travel experiences are expensive, but totally does not get the difference between the traveller vs. tourist mindset. 

The objective of this blog (inspired by this conversation) is to hopefully convince you to embrace the traveller mindset to unlock life changing experiences, instead of the tourist mindset. 

What is the tourist mindset?

Being someone who enjoys travelling, I am embarrassed to admit that I did not start off embracing the traveller mindset. Like many novice travellers, I was a FULL-ON tourist. I remember vividly my first trip to Cape Town, South Africa in 2013 when I could finally afford to travel. I had a gigantic smile on my face, excited about boarding a flight for the first time, staying in a fancy apartment and doing the ‘touristy’ things such as Robben Island, wine tasting and Table Mountain. 

This experience also reminded me of  a phrase from the movie, A Tourist’s Guide which says  that ‘Tourists want to escape life. A traveller wants to experience it.’ 

Tourists want to escape life. A traveller wants to experience it.

Source: A Tourist’s Guide

I used to approach my travels with a tourist mindset, ready to escape my life and travel to faraway places. I would plan a trip, book flights and accommodation, and get excited about escaping my life in Lesotho, albeit for a few days. 

landscape photograph of body of water
Photo by Kellie Churchman on

Part of my pre-travel to-do list included thoroughly researching things to do at the destination, filling my itinerary with activities and leaving no room for ‘free time’. It was about going to ALL THE MUST-SEE tourist destinations and landmarks. 

Upon arriving at the destination, I would immerse myself in the activities, intentionally ticking off all the bucket items on my to-do list and capturing every moment for social media. If it meant waking up very early in the morning to travel to an iconic landmark or returning to the hotel late in the evening, I was fully committed. 

Many trips later, I would often come back from my vacations exhausted, desperately needing time to recover from the trip. It was a few years ago that I realised that I was missing out on so much more from my travel experiences because my mindset was completely wrong!

I was escaping my life and sharing pictures on social media, instead of learning and experiencing something new. I was missing out on the opportunity to truly embrace what the travel experience had to offer be it learning a new language, meeting new people or exploring different cultures.

What is the traveller mindset?

I am of the view that a traveller’s mindset is one that embraces the endless possibilities that each destination has to offer. It is the belief that travelling is possible, accessible and an opportunity to discover something new and different. To embrace this mindset, you first need to believe that you are worthy of these experiences and then allocate resources (time and money) to experience them. Do not limit your horizon! You do not need to travel far, but you do need to travel.

With the mindset in check, the next step is to have the spirit and willingness to lose yourself, discover yourself and immerse yourself in new experiences, cultures and destinations. It should be more than just a bucket list that you tick or a picture that you post and share on social media, it should be a state of being!

istanbul cityscape behind silhouette of man at sunset
Photo by Necati Ömer Karpuzoğlu on

How do you cultivate the traveller mindset? 

Start in your hometown or travel out of town. Go to a new restaurant, event, festival or museum. Challenge yourself to experience something different or out of your comfort like an outdoor activity, mountain biking, hiking or camping. Do sole dates, meet new people and create new memories. 

Too many trailblazers, like my friend believe that travelling is reserved for a select few and it is expensive or should be done at a specific time of the year. Granted, you might have to save and spend money to travel, what we should not shy away from is working on the travel mindset. Let us stop traveling purely to see tourist attractions but give ourselves permission to be vulnerable and ready to embrace unfamiliar experiences, which are synonymous with the traveller’s mindset. 

Go out there and escape to experience life. Here’s to creating travel and lifestyle experiences together!

For more travel content, follow my social media accounts @tkay_nthebe, subscribe to my YouTube channel and sign up for a free email newsletter that shares travel, lifestyle, and adventure content.

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