Travel is one of the important modes of identity construction. It is influenced by individual choices as well as by macro-contexts of institutional practices and changes. Based on the study of the accounts of young middle-class Polish travellers to the former Soviet Union countries, this article attempts to demonstrate the ways in which macro-processes of systemic transformation and European integration affect the identity-building processes. After offering a discussion of the cultural meanings of emphasising the uniqueness of their experience and difference from 'mainstream tourists' by the travellers, the article turns to the interpretation of the role of the encounter with local dwellers as an important identity-formation related experience. The analysis of the acceptance or rejection of food from local dwellers demonstrates the ambiguous attitude of travellers to the local dwellers and attempts to place this ambiguity in the macro-context.