The word “tourist” conjures up nightmarish images of herds of fanny-packed folk clogging the sidewalks for cheesy photo opps and complaining loudly about locals who don’t speak English. (Can you imagine only knowing your one, native language? The nerve, am I right, fellow Americans? Oh… wait…) If neon is the new black, ‘tourist’ is the new four-letter word.
But I just can’t believe that touristing is all bad. Anyone with a basic desire to explore must have the seed of adventure planted somewhere deep within, right?
So on behalf of Hawaiian-shirted travelers everywhere- because I’ll admit it’s arduous accepting wisdom from someone on a Segway- I give you Life Lessons from The Tourists:
** Stop and gawk. Unabashedly. So much in this world is worthy of our awe. Why do we hurry past like we’re unimpressed?
Somewhere between being a kid and growing up into a Serious Adult, we’re sadly taught to appear indifferent, unmoved- to take it all in stride. The one ‘pass’ adults seem to get is when they’re tourists and allowed- no, expected- to halt traffic in admiration of the world’s splendidness.
Stop, take it all in, stand there like a slack-jawed fool.
The world is breathtaking, isn’t it?
** Ask for directions. As much as it annoys me to admit, when I step out of an unfamiliar subway hole, I’m like a lost & confused Punxsatawney Pete being forced out of his groundhog hole on Feb 2nd: “Where the hell am I? Who are all you people?”
But asking for directions can be a lot less literal than that. We can’t know the answer to everything all the time- why is touristing the only time we’re allowed to ask stupid questions? Encourage curiosity. Nurture the “stupid” question. Unless it really is stupid. Then keep it to yourself.
** Don’t care what people think about you. That’s the only logical explanation I could think of for flaunting a matching visor/fanny pack combo, and I say kudos to you, tourist. Balls. Out.
Though I generally wouldn’t condone socks with mandals, if that’s your thing, let your freak flag fly! It’s really quite liberating to rock that head scarf you know you can’t pull off, or to howl like a cat in heat at karaoke night, or to do the robot to a Justin Bieber song in your car… at a stoplight with the windows rolled down. Kudos to you, friend. (Not me. None of those things. Ever.)
** Expect life to be different than you expect. When I travel to far off lands, I’m generally a lot more accommodating. I expect that ATMs may not work, that people may not understand what I’m trying to say, that each day may play out very differently than the Travel Brochure Version I have in my head.
C’est la vie, right? I’d have a lot fewer pursed lips and under-my-breath F-bombs if I felt as Parisianly laissez-faire about ‘la vie’ at home.
Accept that even in your own country, people have different beliefs and likes and dislikes and hairstyles and mantras… and a lot of times they don’t operate on your schedule.
And in the grand scheme of life, that’s okay.
** Take pictures. I am so, so good about documenting our international trips. I know that I’m Going on an Adventure and thus, will need photos to commemorate the trip and to prove to Older, Possibly Senile Me that Younger Me was actually there.
But I suck at documenting the rest of my life. In trying to write a post about my life as a veterinarian, I realized I had like, 10 shots- all from the same day when I knew we had a bald eagle coming in.
Vacations are great, but Life is a much bigger event to be commemorating!
Have faith in the infinite wisdom of The Tourist.