Look, I get it: tourists can get in the way. They clog up the sidewalks. They crowd public transit. Sometimes, they even have the audacity to eat at your favorite restaurant. I know it can be frustrating.
Still, my friends: we must be nice to tourists. We should welcome them, if not with open arms, then at least with kind eyes and subtle smiles. We should help them when they ask for directions. We should give them advice about the best place to watch the sunrise, where to go to taste the best coffee in town, how to find that amazing restaurant with the hidden door.
Why’s that, you ask? Well, there’s the practical side, like the fact they bring a ton of revenue to the cities we love to call home. But it’s much more than that, too. You see, tourists appreciate your city- often more than you do yourself. They come with an inquisitive spirit, and a hope to discover. They wander the alleys you ignore, examine the signs you never read, stare at the tops of the buildings you never notice. They get excited about the tiniest little things that you forget to appreciate in your daily life. Just the other day I got caught in a crowd of tourists as I raced to catch my bus home from work. I could have been annoyed by the fact they kept stopping to take pictures… but I wasn’t. Because on their faces I saw such looks of pure enjoyment, there was no way I could harbor a resentful thought. As I raced, they savored.
When your tourists go home, they’ll post their pictures on Facebook, bragging to friends about their adventures. They’ll share their perspectives on your town and its treasures. Perhaps they don’t know what it’s really like to live in your city- their view is all snacks and strolls, without the realities of daily life. But, the words they’ll share about your city will resonate with others, helping to create a vivid image of what your city stands for. It may not be completely accurate, but it’s done with admiration, and respect.
One more reason, one that you most certainly will understand: we are ALL tourists. You may play the role of “the local” today, but what about the next time you hop on a plane? Then what? Mark my words, you’ll be a tourist, too. Being a tourist has nothing to do with whether you’re an experienced traveler or inexperienced, whether you blend in when you’re on a trip or whether you stand out like a sore thumb. Being a tourist has to do with that sense of excitement and discovery we feel when we embark to visit a new place. It has to do with the way we plot our paths across a new city, desperate to soak it all in.
As I watched people snap photos the other day, I couldn’t help but feel excited on their behalf. I may not want to take a million photos of my daily commute, but I’m glad they are. Who doesn’t have a memory of being in that sort of moment, getting giddy from the sights around you? As travelers, we owe it to one another to be respectful and encouraging. There are bound to be times that YOU’RE the one crowding someone else’s commute home, eating at their favorite restaurant, or stopping on the sidewalk in front of their house to take a picture. And when that happens: would you want them to give you an evil stare? Most certainly not.