Touron? What is a Touron? Well, there has been much discussion over the differences between a tourist and a traveler, but there seems to be a unique hybrid word popping up into the mix during the past 20 years or so.
Touron is a derogatory word meaning an unfortunate mixture of “tourist” and “moron”. By the ever popular Urban Dictionary, Touron is defined as “The derogatory term combines the words “Tourist” with “Moron” to describe any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity. ”
This term has it’s roots in the national parks and is better defined as something you must witness rather than read. It doesn’t sound too bad on paper; but in action, it makes you want to shake them by their shoulders. I encountered the term and my first group of tourons whilst out in Yellowstone National Park with my aunts who used to be bus drivers for the park back in the 80’s… so they are quite seasoned at identifying who is a ‘touron’ vs. who is a ‘tourist’.
Most of my experiences are in national parks, but these types can be seen pretty much anywhere. Some examples of tourons that I have encountered are:
1. The person that uses their car to get what they want. Example: tourons will drive their cars around the park and sometimes use them to get super close to the wildlife. This is an AWFUL idea! I once saw a guy driving a minivan get charged at by a buffalo. So him, in all his stupid glory, threw the van in reverse and backed up as fast as he possibly could – which made my family have to back up our car quickly and get out of his and the buffalo’s way!
2. The kind that stop their vehicles in the middle of the road because they saw something move in the field. **Word to the wise: DRIVE SLOW and always be on your toes when operating any vehicle in parks and resorts!**
Funny story about this one. Last time I was in Yellowstone I was with two of my friends, one of which had a moose antler hat that she had bought from our Disney trip the previous year, we had stopped on the side of the road to take a little hike down to a creek. She had been wearing the antlers and we had decided to play a prank on some passerby-tourons. She put the hat on and walked around in the tall grass while my family stayed up on the hill by the road to pretend that they saw a moose!
My other friend and I hid in the bushes nearby and watched as other cars stopped to see what the commotion was. My family was pointing and saying things like “is that a moose?”. I didn’t expect people to stop and take pictures, but they sure did! We had like 4 or 5 cars stop before they figured out we were just messing with them. It was too funny! I didn’t think the prank would actually work, but it sure did!
3. The rest of them that have no clue what’s going on and are totally at bliss in their ignorance. They’ll just read out of their tourbooks and truck on to the next stop and not even look up to see the amazing new place they’re in. That’s not quite experiencing something new. That’s experiencing what someone else had explored.
Pretend you’re going to be writing your own tourbook (or start a blog! Hey that’s a good idea…)! Experience something that’s “off the beaten path” of tourism, so-to-speak, and make note of it for your own future reference. It’s fun and informing!
Now that I’ve laid out a few types of tourons, here are my top three hints to think of when traveling to avoid the dreaded title ‘touron’:
1. Don’t talk about personal information such as hotel name, number, and such… phone numbers, addresses, schedules, etc. This is a personal invitation for bad people to take advantage of you. You don’t have to be paranoid, not everyone is out to get you. You will probably meet some fantastic locals and other travelers that will positively shape your vacation and maybe even your life! But it’s best to be careful with personal information. Just because you’re in a place where people don’t know you, doesn’t mean they won’t try and find out more about you! You’re an easy target. So walk with some confidence and be nice!
2. Eat somewhere that isn’t an Olive Garden or other corporate restaurant. Sure, eat at a chain on the first night! It brings comfort and familiarity after a long day of traveling! But after that…get the heck to a local hole in the wall and experience something new! If you’ve ever seen the show Drive-ins, Diners, and Dives you know that not every shack is a roach farm and possibly even has the best food you’ve ever experienced!
3. Be smart and blend in! You know you are a traveler, it doesn’t have to be blatantly obvious. In fact, when it is obvious, people might be less inclined to give you respect. That seems to be why people have such a hard time traveling in foreign countries. People watch and learn how they interact with their surroundings, their social customs, etc. It will give you information on how to be more of an ‘informed traveler’ and may open some doors that will lead you to more interesting local hotspots that aren’t always seen from a completely touristic point-of view!
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