“You don’t want to go there,” she replied, a Hawaiian woman living on the coast of Oregon as I casually me ruined I’d love to see her home state one day.
“No? Why not?” I inquired.
“Too many FTs.” She grimaced. I looked puzzled.
“Fucking tourists,” she explained.
It seems people the world over hate tourists. Never mind that many of the places that shine so brightly would not exist without tourists, or at least the locals wouldn’t be able to live there.
If hordes of strangers with disposable income didn’t frequent vacation destinations, those places would not be able to support the restaurants and staff it takes to keep them running. Grocery stores, gas stations, cellular reception; without tourists these things would not exist. At least not in the small 500 person towns that we love so much, which get overrun by literally thousands of people every day for some stretch of ideal weather, tourists jamming up the streets, hogging up the parking, spending more money in a few weeks than these towns make the entire rest of the year.
Locals bitch, but very few of them are actually born and raised anyway. Anyone who’s ever moved from somewhere else is an outsider, just one less parking spot for the natives.
Travelers too, we seem to have a dislike of being considered “tourists”. Since we consider our travels, particularly us full-timers, as a way of life, we don’t want to get lumped in with vacationing weekenders. It’s understandable, we are different. But the word tourist doesn’t need to carry with it such negative connotations.
Locals will still look at you like a tourist, particularly if you’re only sticking around for a week or so. You’ll still be just a passing face they only get to know well enough to score a better tip or share some old stories with someone outside of their “I’ve heard it all before” regular circle.
And really, if we’re just stopping through for a moment, we are tourists. Show up in Yosemite, snap a few pictures, stay a night or two…isn’t that the definition of tourism?
But then again, who really cares?
Being lumped in with every other guy taking a photo of Mt. Rushmore isn’t the worst, is it? You could be at home taking photos of your front porch instead. And if a local or two gets pissed that you’re just another ten minutes worth of line at the coffee shop, remind yourself: this guy will be here buying coffee and getting mad at tourists tomorrow, next week, next year. I’ll be drinking coffee two states over, sitting in a cafe in Paris, or hiking a cacao plantation in Columbia someday and he’ll still be angry at tourists, so what’s it matter to me?
I for one am proud to be a tourist. Every dime I spend, every photo I snap, every story I share means maybe one or two more people get inspired to go out and see some more of the world than they had before.
While I don’t love the word “tourist”, I am quite found of the term “touring”. Shit, I’ll keep touring until I can’t tour no more.
And if you really want to avoid the whole tourism label, just don’t go anywhere “tourable”. Hit up the deep deserts of West Texas in July or go play around Yellowstone in the winter. No one else but the hardcore locals will be there and you will most definitely not be called a tourist.
I believe the applicable term at that point is “bad ass”.