Want to know how to be a traveler not a tourist? Picture this: you’re standing at the end of a one million meter line to climb the Eiffel Tower, it’s 34 degrees and you’re dripping in sweat, you’re hideously hungover and you’re so hungry you could eat at least five ham and cheese croissants. Sure, it’s the Eiffel Tower – one of the most treasured monuments in the world – but did you really go travelling just to waste an entire afternoon staring at the back of someone’s ‘I love Paris’ t-shirt and reluctantly sniffing their scent every time the line moves?
Cue the rise of the anti-tourist, or “sight-skippers’ if you prefer. These people eschew the tour-group hoards gravitating toward the famous landmarks of each city and instead choose to immerse themselves in everyday ordinary life, just casually going about their business as if they were locals. I tend to identify with this type of travel tribe, mostly because I’m allergic to waiting in lines. It took me a couple of gos to step foot inside the Colosseum in Rome, and while it was of-course fantastical and awe-inspiring, there were about fifty million other people thinking exactly the same thing (while elbowing me in the side to take pictures). It wasn’t the most enjoyable experience I must admit, and personally, I would have much rather frequented the quaint little Gelatissimo down some random side street to gaze at the larger-than-life Italians crazily zipping by on their scooters.
I’m not suggesting you reject history or architecture completely, there’s a reason each city has their very own attractions, but there really is something to be said about spending your entire trip doing only touristy things. It’s not rocket science, if you eat where the tourists eat, see what the tourists see and do what the tourists do, you’re going to have exactly the same experience as every other tourist. You can be a visitor but still keep a little somethin’ somethin’ for yourself. So here’s how to be a traveler not a tourist.
How To Be A Traveler Not A Tourist
- Choose Your Get-Up Wisely… A DSLR slung nonchalantly across your chest spells cool and intriguing (and an open invitation for people to come and talk to you about what you’re photographing), but a money-belt or bum-bag spells just plain weird. Oh, and don’t wear ‘I love [insert city here] ’ t-shirts, anywhere. Ever.
- Stay Local… Large hotels in the CBD are handy when it comes to moving around but act as a social buffer for getting to know the city and its nooks and crannies. If you stay in a rented apartment in a residential neighbourhood you’ll be forced to become your own concierge, uncovering your own piece of the city along the way.
- Slow and Steady Wins The Travel Race… With a limited amount of holiday leave, most of us are always in a rush to see as many places as we can all in one go. Free time is a luxury, but if you can afford it try to linger in one place for a week at least. The longer you stay in one destination, the more familiar you’ll become with the cities’ nuances and particular ways of life.
- Do The Little Things…, Have you got an errand to run? Instead of waiting until your home to get those new pants taken up, go for a walk down the street and find the local tailor. Ironically, conducting everyday chores in an unfamiliar city is fun. There’s a chance you’ll get lost or have to speak in signs (if there’s a language barrier), but at the end of the day it’s those stories you’ll remember for a lifetime.