Don’t Be A Tourist (Part 2) – At Your Destination

Just to recap, for those of you who missed Don’t Be A Tourist Part 1 – At the Airport and On Board….

In my experience, there are two main groups of people who travel – Tourists and Travelers.

Tourists are those whom you notice the most because they’re usually loud, inconsiderate, unprepared for pretty much any eventuality, and have little interest in anything other than their tan.

Travelers, on the other hand, tend to pay attention when attention is warranted, are prepared when needed, and are generally interested in their surroundings, the people and the culture of the place they’re visiting.

photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) via photopin cc

This series of tips is designed to help you make sure that you sit firmly within the ‘traveler’ camp when you next go on vacation.

Ways to avoid being a tourist at your destination:

1) We all get that it’s nice to see the local sights and to take in the beauty of your destination, but do you have to do this from your car and at 5mph? Wherever you’re visiting in the world, you can be sure that there are locals who are trying to go about their everyday lives as you explore their city or country. They don’t care that you’re nicely air-conditioned in your rental car; they care that they could walk faster than you’re currently driving because you’re too busy staring out of your side window at something that caught your eye! Have some consideration for the locals, park up, get out of your car and see the sights on foot – you’ll see a lot more and you’ll be a lot less irritating to everyone around you.

2) Wherever you are in the world you can rest assured that traffic lights work in pretty much the same way as they do back home – they’re there to control traffic flow. They are not there to give you time to read a map when you’re lost, they’re not there to give you time to take pictures and they’re not there to let you turn around and have a chat with Aunt Aida. If you want to read a map, take some pictures or have a chat, then get out of everyone else’s way and pull over first!

3) Once you’re out of your car (a good first step) there’s still plenty of potential to be a tourist. Don’t walk around with your eyes looking up at the buildings rarely looking where you’re going – that’s a surefire way to walk into someone or something. Sure, it will give all the locals a laugh when you walk into a lamppost but the laughter will be muted when you walk into them. Also, remember rule 4 from the airport – that rule applies to sidewalks as well.

4) At the resort it’s great to be able to relax by the pool or on the beach, preferably laid out on a sun lounger taking in the views and listening to some good music. The thing is that the rest of us don’t necessarily share your taste in music, so how about using some headphones with that iPhone? This isn’t the time to fetch your portable speaker from the room and to share your playlist with the rest of us – that’s staggeringly inconsiderate. It’s also a great way to ‘lose’ your portable speaker in the pool or ocean (If you get my meaning..).

5) Talking of sun loungers: How about clearing up around your sun lounger when you’re done for the day? Most resorts provide an ample number of garbage bins around the area so there is no excuse for leaving your sun lounger looking like it’s just had a dumpster emptied next to it. On top of being inconsiderate to the resort staff and other guests it’s also hazardous to the local wildlife – those clear plastic cups and bottles people leave lying around on the beach kill thousands of marine animals every year.

6) Going on vacation is a great opportunity to share some quality time with your kids. Everyone gets that work days can be long and tough and that, often, the kids are in bed when you get back from work so vacations are a good time to make up for that with some fun. The thing is that when kids have fun it tends to get loud – and that’s ok up to a point. That point is breached, however, when (a) its after dark (hopefully for obvious reasons!) and (b) when the volume is interfering with other people’s rest and relaxation. You’re not the only family on vacation and just because you’re immune to your kids’ screams doesn’t mean the rest of us are. Either quieten down the kids or go somewhere where your noise isn’t so intrusive – like a children’s playground, for example. That’s what they’re for!

7) With a few exceptions, when you go abroad you’re more than likely going to find yourself in a country where English isn’t the first language. Or even the second language. This means that repeating the same phrase in English over and over again (each time a little bit louder!) isn’t going to help you with the stunned-looking local you’re accosting. How about buying a phrase book before you set out on your vacation and then trying to ask for what you want in the local language? Sure, you may butcher every word but at least you’re trying, and that counts for a lot – you may be surprised how much friendlier locals can get when they see you trying to communicate with them in their own language. Even the French are known to mellow a bit when you make an effort!

8) Foreign trips should be about more than just how good your resort is – they should be about seeing the destination you’re visiting and possibly learning a bit about how other people live and what local culture is like. Nothing will label you as a tourist more than coming back from vacation abroad and having nothing to say about the country you visited. Try not having pizza and fries for one night in your life, instead, try something local. It doesn’t have to be exotic or weird – just local. Try spending one less day working on your tan and take a trip out to see some of the sights the country has to offer (although bear in mind points 1 & 2 if you’re in a car!). They say that travel broadens the mind but that really doesn’t apply to those who sit by the pool all day!

Travel is an amazing thing to experience and, living in an age where it’s easy to get from country to country, we are truly privileged. Let’s not lose sight of just how lucky we are to have the world as our playground and learn to appreciate it and those around us a little bit more. Show consideration to others and respect for where you’re visiting and you’re on your way to never being thought of as a tourist again.

 

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