I last wrote a post about ‘tourist-shaming” in the modern blogosphere. In it, I described how I feel it’s unfair to put down a whole group of travelers based on how they like to conduct their personal vacations. I was mostly prompted to write that post by the fact that I find myself in the “dirty word” TOURIST category quite often when I read other travel articles that mention it, and I wanted to defend myself and anyone else who actually enjoys this style of travel. Today I thought it might be fun to list out all the examples of ways I prefer to be a “tourist.”
1. I’m not a solo traveler
My husband Kevin is a great travel partner. I’ve taken a few international trips without him before we got married, but I much prefer to go with him. He is my safety net and comfort zone, and makes me feel less timid in my plans than I would be by myself. And honestly, at this point, we’d both be jealous if one of us got to see a new location without the other, so I’d never dream of going anywhere alone.
2. We keep to ourselves
When Kevin and I travel, we tend not to go out of our way to get to know anyone new. It’s not that we think we’re better than anyone; I am just pretty shy and introverted, and I don’t enjoy small talk or making new friends that I’ll likely never see again. I find it stressful. This goes for the locals and other travelers alike; we don’t discriminate. We enjoy briefly talking to people and learning about them when it comes up naturally (like a B&B owner or other couples on the same tour), but we’d never make plans to hang out with anyone else. I prefer learning about others’ lives online or in books, from the safety of not being expected to hold up half the conversation. This is the first example of me putting comfort first. I’m sure making new friends during travel can be very rewarding and enriching, but for me it would also be mentally exhausting, and I like to put that energy elsewhere when I’m exploring a new place.
3. I really enjoy modern plumbing and modesty
I will probably never travel anywhere that doesn’t have plentiful toilet options. I’ll temporarily make do with an outhouse if it has walls and a door, but I much prefer flushing and washing my hands afterward. I may be crossing off a lot of amazing locations because of this requirement, but I don’t really care. This one is pretty important to me.
4. I don’t wing it
Since we get limited time off and our vacations are fairly short, we don’t have the luxury of skipping the planning. Life is short, and for the most part, it’s possible that each trip might be the only time we ever step foot in that particular location during the course of our lives. So I’m not willing to chance it. I make sure we have a place to sleep and know which local activities or sites are most likely to interest us, as well as the most efficient order to do them. Some may think I overplan, but we’ve seen some cool things that we wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t researched in advance, like the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London, Tunnel Beach in Dunedin, NZ, or The New York City Police Museum.
5. We enjoy the popular places and things
Some favorite countries include England, Italy, New Zealand, and Greece, and I’ve geeked out over seeing Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Acropolis, and British telephone boxes. Oh, and eating scones and clotted cream every chance I get.
6. We aren’t very adventurous
We don’t do bungee jumping, rent mopeds, visit areas where we know there are zero English speakers, or order food of which we don’t know the main ingredients. There is a lot of mental work that occurs during travel, and I prefer to not use it all up by feeling guilty for being a burden on the locals or worrying about our safety. Yes, we sometimes play it “safe,” but it’s more relaxing and fun for me that way. Some people relax on vacation by going to the beach with a drink and a good book – this is my version of that kind of vacation; easy and enjoyable, without much to worry about.
7. We don’t mind doing some bus tours with other tourists
This is another one where I just can’t be bothered to use up my mental energy on worry. When we take a cruise, we are usually given less than 12 hours in a particular location. In order to see as much as possible, or in order to venture further from the port without fear of getting lost and delayed, we will do group bus tours. These tours get so much hate online, but they really aren’t that bad. They give you the freedom to forget about directions and keeping an eye on your watch, and just enjoy being on vacation. For the harder-to-reach destinations, they can be much more cost and time efficient as well. After waiting an hour in the rain for a local Dunedin bus and not knowing if we’d get back to our ship in time, I just don’t feel like including that kind of stress anymore. The risk isn’t worth it.
8. You’ll always find me with a camera around my neck
I love taking pictures on vacation; the process is just as enjoyable for me as the end results. Part of my fun is finding interesting photo opportunities, so searching out excellent views is always a goal of ours. I also have a lackluster memory, so I use my camera as a memory aid. Which means yes, I take photos of my food. Usually foreign food is very interesting and different, and I definitely don’t want to forget any local cuisine we try. I also try to photograph our accomodations, and I’d like to start capturing less picturesque things as well, like the grocery store we get snacks at, or the tube stop by our hotel. I haven’t been as good at this as I’d like to be, and I hate forgetting those details.
These are all aspects of my travel style that I might theoretically be “shamed” for by those travelers who feel they have all the secrets. But I prefer not to worry about what others think, and to just travel in a way that works best for me, even though it’s not the “right” way, according to some people. I still end up in interesting places, eat delightful food, and see amazing views. I come home invigorated, with memories and photos that I will cherish forever.