It's Okay to Be a Tourist

USA

Now, don’t lie to me. You’ve all pretended to be better than tourists. It’s only natural. You’ll see them out and about wherever you are traveling and begrudge their every move, muttering, “Damn tourist…” under your breath. And they certainly don’t make it difficult to feel this way. Just try not to grind your teeth in agony while watching a family spend 15 minutes positioning themselves just so, in order to recreate Mount Rushmore. Tourists may as well have a bright red target painted on their backs.

But if I’m not mistaken, aren’t they just as outside of their comfort zones as you are? Did they not shut up and go themselves?

*Crickets*

That’s what I thought.

Just last month, I was in Portland, Oregon. If you’ve been recently, you may have noticed a new addition to their public transit fleet. Cutesy little lime-green electric scooters have sprouted up everywhere, available for rent. And since they require an app for activation, they are literally just scattered around the sidewalks, not locked up at all.

When I first arrived and saw people buzzing up and down the Willamette River banks on these contraptions, you would have thought I was a Frenchman witnessing a fresh batch of study abroad students flood my streets. Do these people know how stupid they look on these things? They must be joking!

(I think it’s important to note here that a certain someone did not get much sleep on the plane.)

After a long summer’s nap, my boyfriend and I woke up feeling like we hadn’t eaten in weeks and were desperate to try the best avocado toast in Portland. (Hint – it’s at Poa Café.)

The millennial breakfast of champions

“What if we rode those scooters to breakfast? It would be so much faster,” he suggested.

“We could do that… but what if I actually end up liking them?” I pouted.

Let us call to mind the fact that Squidward’s entire life changed the moment he tried a Krabby Patty.

Cut to approximately 30 seconds later and I am flying through an immense bike lane and attempting to do tricks at 18 miles per hour. (I know that’s not very fast for a car, but when you’re on a scooter, it’s fast enough to make you feel like you’re on drugs. The good kind.)

Scoot scoot, honey

You like Krabby Patties, don’t you, Squidward?

For the next several days, I could be found patrolling the mean streets of Portland on my trusty electric scooter, having the stupidly amazing time I had previously turned my nose up at. And you know what? It was so fun to allow myself to embrace the side of me that I would normally repress in fear of appearing “too touristy.” The only thing I’m not proud of is the fact that I didn’t wear a helmet. Please don’t tell my dad.

Tourists are the unsung heroes of travel.

They are not afraid of judgment (that we so frequently serve them) and allow themselves the simple pleasure of being in awe of the world. When was the last time you felt that?

Upon my return to Philadelphia, I realized how easy it is to become jaded. On my walk to work each morning, I am nearly bulldozed by visitors whose faces are buried in guide maps. My morning run includes dodging packs of wild tourists trying to snap the perfect pic of the Liberty Bell or recreate a scene from National Treasure. They are everywhere.

But, since this trip to Portland, I’ve learned to look at these visitors with fresh eyes. I think everyone deserves to fully experience that sense of wonder when seeing a new place for the first time. Isn’t that the bug that’s bitten all of us, likely the reason you’re on this website in the first place??

So go ahead! Conquer the world as your most star struck and unabashed tourist self. Share that joy because it is so rare to find.

Just do us all a favor and leave the selfie stick at home.

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