Who Am I as a Tourist?

When we go abroad, my family tries to make an effort to be good tourists. A lot of our efforts are in smaller things, like making a pact to avoid American food. We research restaurants ahead of time, plan our meals and try to find locally owned restaurants. We try to buy our souvenirs from locally owned shops. If there’s a different language, we try our Paris1best to speak it as much as we’re able. When I went to Italy on my own, I tried to learn as much Italian as I could before I left, and spoke as little English as I could. By the end of the three weeks, I could speak Italian pretty well. As proud as we are of the small efforts we make, we still have a habit of negatively contributing to where we visit. We’re still seen as outsiders, often as detriments to the local society. And then when we go to the beach we’ve visited every summer for decades, we get annoyed with the tourists we experience there. I think it’s rather hypocritical that we pride ourselves on our tiny efforts to be better tourists, then feel our patience snap like dry wood when a tourist parks in our (our) parking spot at our private beach access. But I’m glad I have readings like the Kincaid reading to kind of put myself in perspective, in the local context, and understand my effects on the places I travel. I’m not the little pre-teen proud of herself for eating authentic Indian food in London, anymore. I’m the grown woman ashamed that it took her three whole weeks to be conversational in Italian when she should’ve learned before she left. I have higher standards now, and I can only hope I use them to improve.

Eiffel Tower at Night

One Comment Add yours

  1. Marissa Fahy says:

    I wish my family had been taught to be this sort of traveler but my parents sort of refrained from teaching us about how to travel until right before we went places. It would have been great to know these things like planning meals and going to locally owned restaurants. My parents assumed that these were things we would automatically know.

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