United Kingdom #4: Tourist vs Traveler

Mariam Kokosadze ’24 and Chrissy James ’24, reflect on the meaning of what it means to be a tourist vs a traveler.


Today’s focus was on what it means to be a tourist versus a traveler. We discussed this in the morning and since then I have learned that a traveler hopes to gain an understanding of the culture of the country they are visiting, and also seeks to bring back what they’ve learned and share it with others. A tourist may come to the country for famous attractions or to try a certain dish. As Ileanna said, a tourist comes to see but a traveler comes to learn. Throughout the day we were both travelers and tourists.

We first ventured into the Seven Dials for some architectural sketches to capture the character of a small place tucked away called Neal’s Yard. There, we were further away from the busy streets of London and could fully focus on our sketches. The colors of the buildings were beautiful and it was a great opportunity for me to practice perspective drawings. This was an instance where we were more like travelers, as we were immersed in the stillness of the city and interpreted it through our own eyes.

We found ourselves back at Soho Square for another chance to observe and draw people. I really enjoyed this. Sketching people comes with challenges. There’s the fact that many people don’t stay still, in fact it was very hard to catch the people standing up so a lot of my drawings were of people sitting cross legged on the ground or on a bench. Where you really need to get creative is when you’re trying not to stare at them or make them feel uncomfortable. I only quickly glance and maybe look at the grass in front of them. What you start to notice is that the people that you’re drawing have their own lives. One may be on a break, there might be a couple on a date, or a group of friends having a picnic. When you start to observe people in this way, you become more aware of the city as well. This was another moment where I felt we were more like travelers than tourists.

After a long day we went to Yamagoya, a Japanese restaurant. I had a delicious bowl of ramen and enjoyed conversing with everyone. We may have been loud at times while we laughed and talked, and I’m sure many people knew we were American. In that sense we may have seemed like tourists. However, I’m glad we got to have that moment after a day full of activities.


Today we did a lot of activities. We started off by visiting Seven Dials and we drew in this lovely shop area for over an hour. I personally loved it because not only was the weather nice, but the scenery was beautiful. In my drawing, I practiced my 2-point perspective skills and I am very satisfied with how it turned out. I personally enjoyed drawing at Seven Dials more than Soho square today, but both experiences are ones that I deem valid. One thing that really stuck with me was our tour at the Tate Modern. There I learned so much about activism in the form of art; this topic was one I was more interested and excited about for this trip. There was one piece that stuck with me and it was called Then and Now by Lorna Simpson. I loved it because it highlighted the brutality and discrimination black folks have and continue to experience. The piece highlights a fat chunk of a black person’s life, and no matter how much we try to ignore it we can’t and shouldn’t. As a black person, it spoke to me because it shows that our struggles were real.

Additionally, another thing that was nice today was eating with everyone else. We are learning so much about each other and it’s great to bond. From an outside perspective we may look like tourists but I feel like we act like travelers. We’ve been learning about art history and enjoying peaceful environments rather than bombarding the natives with photos and cameras. I would definitely say that today was a good day.