Though we all dread the word “tourist,” the truth is that being a tourist is super fun (plus you learn a lot!). True, you might not want to don the stereotypical visor and fanny pack combination or yell for your brood at the tippy-top of your lungs, but there are certainly other ways to benefit that don’t come at the expense of taking an authentic look at a destination.
Tourist Attractions Usually Have
While you might be visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa to take that mandatory leaning-against-the-Tower picture (but, for all our sakes, please don’t—oh go ahead, we know it’s fun!), popular destinations usually have a special meaning to their respective cities. Don’t be pressured to skip the Statue of Liberty just because real New Yorkers would never do that. They would never do that because they were probably hauled there on countless school field trips growing up. You weren’t. So, ditch the shame and see the city—the whole city and all its historic offerings.
Tour Guides Know What They’re Talking About
Sure, you could paw through a guidebook for hours while dragging your uninterested travel partner around. Or you could admit that, while books contain a lot of knowledge, local tour guides have perhaps a bit more—about this city, at least. Plus, they can fill you in on interesting lore that can only be gleaned from someone who’s lived and breathed that particular city for their whole life. While you might feel particularly touristy when you’re being corralled around a foreign city with a bunch of fellow Americans, stick close to the guide, ask a ton of questions, and enjoy a history lesson—up close and personal.
Doing Touristy Things Gives You a Good
Lay of the Land
If you’re planning on exploring a particular place for a span of time, avoid the temptation to skip “more touristy” attractions because you’ll surely see them during your long stint. Going on a walking tour is often one of the best ways to see a city, get in all your steps for the day, and become geographically oriented. Though it’s true that you’ll probably see the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps quite a lot over a summer in Rome, taking a touristy walking tour the first day can easily help you figure out where all those places are in relation to each other. (Plus you learn a lot about the city you’re staying in, and get over jet lag by staying active). Not up for that much walking? Hop-on-and hop-off bus tours accomplish the same thing, driving you by major attractions with narrated historical overviews.
Acknowledging That You’re Completely Clueless (and Seeking to Learn) Is Good to Do Every Once in Awhile
Most tourists are clueless. Well, of course we are. But how else are we supposed to learn about another culture except by diving in headfirst and unaware—though, importantly, with an open mind? Embracing the title of tourist allows travelers to do just that. So when someone calls you a tourist, wear the title with pride (and maybe place your fanny pack away in storage).