Caroline Says…Be a Traveler, not a Tourist

There’s a difference, you know. A traveler roams the world with genuine interest and grace, adapting to local customs, appreciating different cultures, and shaking off the discomfort that comes with the unfamiliar. The late Anthony Bourdain was a traveler. He ventured into parts unknown and found himself. (Sadly, his demons also found him.)

A tourist stands out, whether by dress or manner or actions, is usually armed with an attitude and a selfie stick, and is often obnoxious when things go awry. A tourist comes to check a box, seeing but not really letting the wonder of a place sink in. Mona Lisa: check. Eiffel Tower: check. Machu Picchu: check. Do yourself a favor: Allow yourself to linger.

You may have read accounts of cities like Venice and Barcelona attempting to regulate the number of tourists, especially the throngs of day-trippers that descend from huge cruise ships, straining the limits of popular monuments and museums. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to visit the wonders of the world. I certainly do. But maybe we can all be a little bit better about how we do it. Maybe we can travel more responsibly, more thoughtfully.

Instead of packing it in – i.e. moving to five different hotels in ten days – why not hunker down? Why not really experience a place? Have coffee in the same piazza each morning. Learn the barista’s name. Learn a bit of the language before you leave home. Make a connection with someone foreign.

Why not venture off the beaten track or, at the very least, outside the city center? Consider the road less traveled. It will be less congested.

Eat and shop like a local. The food will be better, and you’ll save some money.

Leave a lighter footprint. People live and raise their children around the corner from the Colosseum. Can you imagine the litter in high season? The lines?

In fact, why not travel in the off-season? You’ll enjoy a slower pace with simple pleasures. Just the thought of a bowl of pappardelle with porcini, eaten fireside on a cold Tuscan night, is enough to warm the heart – and the belly.

The world is waiting. Keep traveling. Just tread carefully.

Caroline Travels the World (not tours the world) and So Can You.

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