When I was in the 11th grade, I went on a trip through the foreign language department at my high school. We spent two weeks traveling around Italy and France. And while I’m sure that I spent about 40 percent of my time there whining about how much I missed my boyfriend, it was pretty awesome. We visited Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Monaco, Aix-en Provence, Arles, Nice and Paris and saw all of the amazing art, architecture and culture that each city boasts. We saw Michelangelo’s Statue of David, the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and The Eiffel Tower. We bought cheap knock off handbags, took a gondola ride and ate the most amazingly cheesy Italian gnocchi I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
Despite this incredible experience, my high school alter-ego worried the entire time about looking like a tourist and sticking out… not that you would think that from the last photo.
Please understand that this was not totally unwarranted. You see, Alio, our 60-something Italian tour guide, had found that the best way to keep groups together was to hold up a little green flag for us to follow through the streets. So there we were. Twenty-one Americans all lined up in our little rows traipsing through down the main thoroughfare in Rome with everyone stopping in the middle of the street without warning to snap a picture. I was completely and utterly embarrassed to be seen with this group of ridiculous tourists. I wanted to fit in…to belong in the culture. Which, let’s just be honest, was never going to happen. I’m about as Am-ur-i-can as they come.
But since that trip I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned what I want my life to look like and how I want to experience it. I’m still learning to care less about what others thing about me. And I’ve come to discover that I’m OK with being a tourist. In fact, I WANT to be a tourist. A life tourist, if you will.
Have you ever noticed that when you have out-of-town friends visit that you experience your surroundings differently? You visit the places that you drive past every day, and take pictures in the grocery store. Maybe one of the reasons we enjoy vacation so much is that we appreciate it differently. On vacation the sun shines brighter, the colors come alive, and the food tastes better. How many of us have ever been to our state capital (and NOT on a field trip)? Or have eaten at the tiny restaurant across the street and taken pictures like we’ve never been there in our life? Maybe we would appreciate our environment if we lived more like a tourist.
So go ahead; be a tourist. See things differently. Appreciate your surroundings. Find out what your city is “famous” for and do it! Stop in the middle of the street you walk down every day to snap a photo… just watch out for cars.
No one wants to die on vacation. (Although I bet the hospitals are nicer.)