Tourism is Not a Race
It’s Okay to Take It Slow
Tourism almost always seems to imply some sort of action. It feels like a responsibility just as much as pastime. If you aren’t chasing around a town or country, are you really taking full advantage of everything it has to offer?
In the past, I’ve often tried to fit in as many things as possible. It comes naturally; you want to see everything so missing out on something can feel like a total waste. What if you never get the chance to go back and see it?
Can you really say you’ve been to Paris if you haven’t visited the Eiffel tower?
When I visited Paris with my family I realised that it wasn’t about the sightseeing. We had gone sightseeing on a previous trip but, in a rush to see it all, we’d blown through and past highlights without taking the time to really appreciate what was going on around us. If I’m entirely honest, I’ve forgotten most of the paintings and monuments we visited.
This time, having left our checklist behind, we decided to do the opposite. We spent our days aimlessly wandering around the city and trying restaurants that were on the “great cheap food in Paris” list. They were not Michelin-starred and many of the activities we took part in would not make the list of Paris highlights.
We went to the park and watched Parisian children play with their grandmas, we rented a boat and went around the canal for a while, thoroughly enjoying the feeling of having nowhere to be. We were free to do as we pleased; no plans or commitments stood in our way.
As we started to wonder why we were enjoying this vacation so much, we realised that this freedom was what it really came down to. The absolute lack of pressure was freeing.
We realised that the family trips we treasure have this quality in common. They’re the trips we took with few expectations other than enjoying each other’s presence.
There was the home exchange to New York where we stayed in a brownstone and could just sit in the garden after a long day of exploring. Our favourite part of the entire vacation was discovering our part of Park Slope and having pizza at the same local restaurant every night.
We did not see everything New York had to offer but we will never forget how the pizza got cheaper every single night and how the servers’ smiles grew bigger every time they saw us.
We still can’t stop telling people about the time we saw Shakespeare in the park and how we learned that swimming at public pools in New York takes place in shifts.
While we did end up missing out on a few major attractions we gained a feeling of what it’s like to just be there. We created our own personal version of New York and filled it with memories.
Skipping out on recommendations and deciding to do nothing but sit back and enjoy your stay in a town can seem daunting. How are you going to be a real tourist if you’re not even seeing half as much as you could be?
You might not win tourist of the year award, but in many ways that award is highly undesirable. Chasing sight after sight is going to tire you out in a way that prevents your remembering much of what is happening.
Especially when vacation time is limited, it can be tempting to try and use that time wisely, to fill it to the brim. What I’ve found is that this only leads to a bunch of photos that don’t mean as much as they could.
It leads to things like tourists walking across a museum with their iPads, filming the paintings they pass so they can look back at them later. Unfortunately, looking back at a moment that you were too preoccupied to fully experience can be incredibly difficult.
On the other hand, leaning back and doing nothing for a full day, or even a full week, can lead to a vacation that you will remember, not for the sights but for the moments.