I love traveling but I hate being a tourist. Cause, you know, I have this constant internal battle of different points of views :
I’ve been a tourist (even thought I wouldn’t admit it), a local (and proud of it) and a world traveller (well, that’s what I thought).
Here, let me tell you what I’m talking about…
Tourists from my point of view, 25 to the present.
Damn tourists, such an annoying, and over-colorful crowd. Strolling way too slow through the streets and talking way too loud, either in languages I understand which takes away from the beauty of the landscape, OR in languages I don’t understand which makes me angry too because IF I had wanted to hear their language, I would’ve traveled to THEIR country.
When I’m traveling, I don’t want to hear anything but the sweet sound of the local language.
Plus, the tourists, there are way too many of them. And all they want to do is one thing: the exact same thing I want to do. They’re always trying to go to the same restaurants as me and take the same plane as me. Makes me so maaaad!
When I travel, I travel like a local. I want to go to meet the locals and get off the beaten track, you see. I eat at the local joints and wouldn’t be caught dead with a Lonely Planet.
I’m way better than a tourist, you see?
Tourists from my point of view as a 14 year old local in my hometown (very touristic hometown).
Damn tourists. Just a mass of people who all look the same and are so noisy and tacky, spoiling MY beautiful country. And they ALL wear Birkenstocks, those weirdo shoes that take the shape of your feet.
Okay, yeah, I guess we wouldn’t be able to earn a living without them, seeing as they are our main source of income, but it would be better if they came, spent their money, and left being absolutely as discrete and hush hush as possible.
And I sure wish they would stop trying to speak Corsican because I don’t understand a word of their accent AND MY FRENCH IS JUST FINE THANK YOU BYE.
Oh, you just wait, seriously. AHH! Who is this person who just walked right into my bedroom when I was taking a nap? AND THEY WANT TO GET A TOUR OF THE HOUSE? There are signs everywhere. NO TRESSPASSING. VERBOTEN. I mean c’mon, it’s even written in German. There’s no excuse.
Another tourist trying to get “off the beaten track”. Those are the worst. The track exists for a reason. Can’t we have just three seconds of tourist-free life? CAN WE?!
Long live Lonely Planet, all I’m saying.
The locals as seen by me, the Great World Traveler.
Damn tourists. Tourism is so dumb. Travel, that’s the real deal. It’s an entirely different concept. Yeah, pass the joint. No, but you know what I mean though? Are we going on a trip? Yeahhhh, let’s toootally go on a trip.
Let’s go to [insert whatever developing country here] !!! It’s great! You can live for 20 euros a month easy? How cool is that?
And we’re not going with any stinking Lonely Planet, Obbbbv. We’re world travelers. We’re going to make friends with the locals. They’ll show us around. Friendship, maaaan. International friendship!
Should I dread my hair or what?
That’s pretty much what I sounded like at 18. Aaaaaah, we’re all so serious when we’re 18.
A few months later, there we were, and after a few drinks at a local bar with my two “world traveler” friends, we made friends with the locals. So cool. We started spending some time with them. They showed us their favorite spots in town, how they lived and all. We ate with the locals, drank with the locals, talked about the important stuff like international friendships. We even had a drum circle on the beach, you know, bro?
Then one day, it was time to leave.
And that’s when one of our new friends asked us…
… if we maybe had any money we could give him.
Shocked, hurt, upset, I went on thinking that the entire world was perverted and full of the worst people thinking only about money.
It took me a few days to understand.
What little pretentious pricks we had been. I’m still ashamed of my behavior when I think about it.
We thought we could swoop in and spend two weeks off the good graces of locals, without thinking for a second that their problems were probably more serious than “never ever taking a look at a Lonely Planet.” That they have families to feed. And other thing to do with their life than show three silly young kids around.
I’ll never forget that experience, the moment I realized that priorities are different depending on your latitude.
That friendship can exist in a million different ways but you can never forget where you came from. And even if you’re a student without a penny in your pocket, in certain countries and to certain people, you’re a billionaire.
For a longtime, I travelled only in countries that looked like mine because I realized after that trip that I needed to learn how to travel.
I stopped thinking of myself as a world traveler and accepted that going to another country, like I had told you here, is helping it as well as soiling it, and that the only thing to do it to try be humble.
I have a few principles that follow me everywhere I go… Especially in countries where my purchasing power increases tenfold.
-Don’t try to bargain too much.
Saying that “for them, $50 is a fortune!” is not a good reason to bargain for hours. Not chic.
I always try to think : what would be a good price for me? In my country?
And I don’t say anything when people tell me “that’s way too expensive! He must thought you were a gogo!”, I don’t care.
-Get a guide.
When you can (it’s often less expensive than you might think), it’s really a fanstastic way to understand the local culture and to get off the beaten trail. You usually end up meeting awesome folks.
-Try to stay in an eco-hotel.
More and more hotels are developing systems that boost the local economy and protect the environment. It’s so incredibly important, especially in countries where the water is scarce, for example.
-Be careful where you take pictures.
The Balinese loved to be photographed, but in Morocco, they’re not so happy when a camera is around.
I always try to pay attention to my behavior when I’m abroad.
There you go! I hope you have many magnificent trips, whether close to home or on the other side of the world. And if you have any advice for me, go for it! Being a good traveller is a lifelong apprenticeship…
PS: This picture is my collaboration with the brand Marc O’Polo.