Adventurous Antipodean traveller taking part in a traditional ceremony on a remote island in Vanuatu

The Antipodean Image of Ourselves on a Journey.

Chris Hemsworth certainly presents the image of an Australian who would be a venturesome travellerGage Skidmore Creative Commons Attribution -Share Alike 2.0

Ever since the Crocodile Dundee “reboot” ad appeared at the Super Bowl, I have had an uneasy feeling about adventurous Antipodeans who travel the world. Even though the Dundee movies are Australian, I include New Zealanders here as well, and in many ways, we are the same. We hold onto that image of a resourceful people that are ruggedly good-natured, fun to be around, able to put up with a bit of hardship, and always see the bigger picture when it comes to travelling. You know the type, well rounded venturesome travellers who don’t mind sometimes dossing down in rough accommodation while on their way to experience one of the world's wonders. Chris Hemsworth certainly fits that image.

Reality is Somewhat Different.

Tillys a well frequented hotel in Port Vila, Vanuatu for business travellers who like a bit of comfort.

A Antipodean tourist taking in the sights at a cafe at Jim Thompsons, in Bangkok, Thailand

Cruise tourism is increasingly become more popular with Australian Tourists

However, I’ve had to change my views on this. As always, there are a few people in the industry who you take notice of. Recently, a respected tourism operator made a passing comment about travellers from down under insisting on their “home” comforts while travelling.

While most tourists say ...., they say that they want to go back to nature, actually, they want to go back to nature with a few comforts. They want to do it pretty well on their terms ; the internet needs to work; god help you if the hair dryer doesn't go; and if they were to see a mouse or a spider then ........  So yes, they want to go and experience things but they want it with a bit of comfort. That's very different from the European tourists. The European tourist wants to get out there and really experience what there is. There's quite a bit of difference.

We think of ourselves as travellers, but our actions mostly proclaim us to be tourists. The appeal of the inner explorer presents imagery of the road less travelled, but somehow there is always the expectation of king sized beds, with crisp sheets, power, lights and an ensuite bathroom. We may enjoy a daily foray into unknown landscapes and alien cultures, but will constantly scuttle back to the luxury and security of our graded hotel. On the road less travelled, Europeans think and act as travellers. To Europeans being around it 24/7 is all a part of experiencing what it is, the real cuisine of the area, the hum of a different culture, and the pervading authenticity of the situation.

The Difference between Travellers and Tourists.

Adventurous travellers don't mind rough bungalow accommodation, and see the bigger picture of why they are travelling.

Adventurous travellers with backpacks getting ready to walk one of the Nepali walkingtrails.

It's all about attitude, and whereas a traveller will go to a destination without preconceptions, a tourist will already have decided how, and what they are going to experience. Along the journey, there are often changes, unexpected happenings (both great, and not so great), distractions and delays. Travellers will treat such matters as a part of that journey, and in the context of things will soak up new opportunities of discovery along the way. A delay may result in being invited into a local villager’s home for lunch, or lead to an invite to a local ceremony. Tourists, on the other hand, will work through their itinerary like clockwork, and any delays will be frustrating and regarded as lessening their experience.

In a nutshell, tourists view travel as a holiday, where they are to be entertained, and their journey is “all about themselves”. Conversely, travellers view travel as an education, a rewarding one, where they soak up what is around them. It’s “all about where they are and who they meet”..

The Traveller-Tourist Continuum.

Venturesome Antipodean travellers getting ready to go on the millenium cave Tour in Santo, Vanuatu

The truth of the matter is that being a “traveller” or a “tourist” doesn’t present cut and dried differentiations. Instead, most people fit on a continuum, that has extremes from experiential travellers that embed themselves within the heartland of communities for weeks on end, to the other end, where cruise tourists rarely see the outside of the ship they are on. For all of us, our point on the continuum is one that suits our personal fears, insecurities, preferences, desires, and passions. Those seeking authentic cultural and venturesome experiences will lie closer to the experiential traveller end , while those that want a break from their life and escape for a time away will enjoy the offerings of resort and cruise tourism.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being either a traveller, or a tourist. Both satisfy personal needs and wants, and help us through the maze of our own lives. Sometimes we travel as a tourist, and at others as a traveller.

Yes, We do kid ourselves About our Self-Image.

For those that are offended, a review of where Australians go for their holiday’s is pertinent. Tourism Research Australia collect and publish the destination countries for Australian outbound trips (TRA, 2017). The top 10 destinations for Australians who are going purely on holiday are included (excluding visiting friends and family) included in figure 1, and are quite revealing.

Graph of the popular destinations of Australian outbound tourists, put together by Tourism Research Australia

Topping the list is Indonesia, and no doubt the “resort” island of Bali will figure almost exclusively with Australian holiday antics being rarely out of the news. Both the United States and New Zealand feature next, but both are developed nations with well-established tourism sectors. Further, while there are numerous adventures to be had in both, their culture and society is so similar to that of Australia, that they hardly qualify as the road less travelled. Fiji is a notable “fly and flop’ destination, and the UK possesses similar characteristics to the USA and NZ.

As far has venturesome places go, Vietnam is the only country that can be considered in that way. It has been in isolation from the west for decades and only now is it's tourism industry developing. Thailand and Japan are the only other destinations that offer anything outside of a tourism Mecca. Even then it’s a stretch, as Thailand is treated much like Bali by Australians, and while Japan is obtaining some prominence, being one of the foremost countries in the OCED since 1964 places it pretty much alongside other developed nation.

It’s a Problem and Antipodeans need to get Real.

Dance ceremony occurring on Tanna Island, Vanuatu which lucky adventurous travellers got to see.

A intrepid traveller climbing up a massive sand dune in a remote island in Fiji

A adventurer walking through thick tropical bush in the pacific

We need to recognise and admit who we are when we travel. Ask anyone if they go as a tourist or a traveller, you will pretty well only get one reply. I don’t think I know anyone that would say that they went away and “spent time being a tourist”, but I do know plenty that will spend hours regaling their intrepid journeys.

Here is the thing. It may seem pedantic, irrelevant, and pathetic to even talk about the differences, but the consequences for both visitor and tourist destinations are significant. If we all view ourselves as travellers and abhor the idea that we are actually tourists, then marketers will blur the branding around destinations to pander to our egos. Increasingly, as a result, there will be a mismatch of what our expectations are, to what a destination can practically provide. Unhappy visitors tend to write on Tripadvisor, and other “word of mouth” platforms.

What is needed, is for us to take responsibility for our own decisions, recognise that we are more marshmallows than adventurous travellers, and either choose a time away that is more suitable to our sensibilities, or understand that if we go off the beaten track we are likely to be outside of our comfort-zone.

Footnote: Antipodeans, Australasians, Anzacs, from downunder

UntitledChongDae : Flickr [Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC by 2.5)]

Why the use of the word Antipodeans? It is certainly an uneasy word to use and feels inappropriate, but less so than the alternatives. Probably, Anzacs conveys the sameness and comradery that exists between Australians and New Zealanders, but I would never use it in the context of the article. No-one can accuse the Anzacs of not having to endure hardship, nor of not being well travelled through the far-flung places of the world. Further, given the shared history it is just inappropriate. Australasians is also probably more correct, but too formal, stiff and more at home with academic pieces.

So what is an Antipodean? The correct definition of an antipode is the point on the globe that is diametrically opposite to a point on the other side. A pair of points that are antipodal from each other have a straight line between them passing through the centre of the earth. At the time of exploration, most expeditions set out from England or its European neighbours, and so the starting nodes of the Antipodes were focused around them with the second nodes falling near-to Australia and New Zealand. The name has remained since those times. More correctly, the Antipodes of Britain and Ireland lie south of New Zealand, which itself is more aligned to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. The partner node for Australia lies in the North Atlantic ocean.


TRA. (2017). National Visitor Survey Results Outbound Trips. Retrieved from

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