Tourist. Traveler. Local.
There are many ways to travel and they are all right.
Tourist: The very word conjures a colorfully decorated middle aged obnoxious couple wearing socks with sandals, zinc oxide on their already sunburned noses and a poorly fitting hat while extending their cell phone with a selfie stick, usually in front of a well-known landmark.
I have met such a creature. They’re not so scary in person.
Traveler: It sounds much more romantic. Going places for the fun of it, exploring the corners of the earth with Louis Vuitton luggage and assistant.
Local: this you understand, I am confident.
When I travel I try to combine all three. I cannot go to Rome without visiting the Coliseum or Paris without gazing up at the Eiffel Tower. I will stand in wonder at the special places of the world with the socked and sandaled sunburned. When I was in Rome I had to see the Spanish Steps. I found them, but I couldn’t see them, there were so many of those annoying tourists sitting all over them.
I’m hoping you’re catching the sarcastic irony.
The traveler in me seeks out attractions and hidden gems alike. I am a walker. And a talker. I ask concierges, locals, taxi drivers, richshaw drivers, strangers what I should see, where I should go. I visit lesser known places if I can, wander down the streets next to the main thoroughfare. I poke around. I try stuff.
If I am fortunate enough to stay in one place for more than a few days I do my best to fit in as a local. I find my favorite breakfast or dinner place and go a few times, establish patterns. I linger longer in public parks and cafes. I take the time to feel myself in the space. I make friends, learn the language – a few phrases at least – and shop for groceries. The mundane of normal life.
But it all starts with the intention to do the touristy thing.
See the big thing. Visit the places around it. Find favorite places and move in.