I am not a tourist.

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I travel, I don’t like to look like a tourist.

I don’t carry a backpack.
Consulting maps is for my hotel room only; I make sure I know how to get where I want to go and how to get back before I go exploring. In cases of emergency, I’ve been known to consult a map in a corner of a department store of whatever neighbourhood I happened to be wandering around in.

I don’t like to look like a tourist. I like to step off the plane and blend right in, like a chameleon. I am probably less successful at doing that than I think I am, but let me have my fun! It’s just the way I prefer to feel. I don’t want to waste any of my time being lost, or overwhelmed, or adjusting to the newness of my environment. I just want to start experiencing it right away. I want to see the sights, but I don’t want to look like a tourist seeing the sights. I like to let my imagination run away with me a little bit, and try to imagine what a stranger might think when they see me. Maybe I just felt like going for a walk because it was a beautiful day. Maybe I’m just doing a little shopping on my lunch break.

The highest compliment is another tourist, complete with running sneakers, fanny pack, and I HEART NY memorabilia asking me where they can find something, because not only does this communicate that I probably look like a pretty friendly person, it means I’ve successfully fooled them into thinking that I know what I’m doing and *gasp* I am not a tourist like them.

I feel like a spy.

There are two possible outcomes: I might actually be equipped to help them, or have absolutely no idea (“Oh sorry, I’m not from around here!” meanwhile, just try to wipe the grin off my face as my head begins to inflate because I fooled that sucker).
Either way, I am winning.

One thing that betrays me almost every time is my accent. Of course, like most people, I don’t think I have one. Once, on a trip way upstate New York, someone told me that I had a lovely accent and asked where I was from. How strange it felt to be simultaneously flattered and embarrassed to be exposed for the phony I was..

I like New York City, though, because it’s such a pleasant mix of cultures and dialects that I can (almost) get away with it. I betray myself in other ways, like losing focus and gawking when I go to Grand Central Station (I mean how can you not, really.. have you seen it? The place is beautiful) or Times Square, or any other place that tourists tend to flock to and locals tend not to appreciate as much, because they’re too used to it.

I guess you might say I’m in love with the romantic and thoroughly impractical idea of simultaneously knowing a city like the back of my hand and seeing it, really seeing it, for the first time.

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