Travel to unlock creativity. Maybe you get interrupted by a crowd of tourists.
I travel a lot, and I’m a tourist. No dilemma here. But wherever I go, I try to blend in with the culture. I don’t visit (only) tourist attractions. I try to observe what locals do it and then try to blend in. I really love going to cities over and over again. One is Venice. The other one is Vienna. I tend to go there a few times a year to do my quarterly/yearly planning and think. I try to speak German/Italian as much as my broken knowledge allows. I’m not perfect, but I try to be polite. Sure sometimes I’m still rude.
But the situation is becoming worse. Tourists (we) are everywhere. Most people have zero respect for foreign culture. They make zero effort to blend in. Especially with how they dress. I’m doing a semi-good job of blending in because people often approach me as if I was a local. Once in Vienna, a stranger stopped me and said:
Hey, you why is this machine not working (pointing angrily at the cigarette machine).
How the hell should I know? No, please, or something. He just stepped in front of me. I guess he took us for locals. For the record, this happened on some random unpopulated street we used to avoid the tourist traffic.
Most locals prefer tourists who try to be kind and respectful. If you try to blend in as a local and do things their way, you’ll find and experience places that a full-blown tourist won’t.
In one of the cafes we’ve been going to for the past 18 years, a tourist said to the waiter:
I want this (pointing into the page of a tourist guide).
Or in Venice. I went for a cup of tea at Marco Polo square. Honestly, for the sake of experience. In the end, I got the best black tea ever. OK also most expensive :) Then a young couple came by the cafe. They noticed an empty table that was really nice and free. The lady sat down, and the waiter gave here the menu. Her husband photographed her. All fine. Then the husband took the menu and pushed it back to the waiter’s hand. They walked away. Clearly, they intend to take a nice photo.
Sadly a lot of people travel to check something off their bucket list. Sure, I do that too. But I prefer to minimize that and live a part of the daily life of locals. I have a library access card in Vienna and Venice. When there, I try to spend a few hours a day in the library and do some deep work. I noticed that I’m way more creative in an environment I’m not accustomed to. Last time I was in the library in Vienna, a few tourists wandered around. OK fine. But then one of them secretly pulled out the phone and started photographing students who were buried in their books. Really!!!
I like getting lost in unknown cities. Luckily I didn’t get into any trouble yet. Though I do try to be careful in what part of the town, I attempt my wondering. I rarely use a map. If I get lost, I re-orient. Sure I break some cultural norms sometimes. But I try not to run around the city like a headless chicken staring into the GPS on the phone.
I’m a big believer in travel. Though I hate mass tourism without respect. Sure, masses have now access to cheap travel, and that’s great. I think that travel gives you the wideness and appreciation for different cultures and yours. But observe, try to blend in as much as you can. Because if you try to speak a bit of their language even if it’s broken, most locals will tremendously appreciate it.
Next time you travel somewhere, ask your self how can I blend in and experience the local culture. Don’t do it for the family album, Instagram, Facebook, or whatever is popular these days. Visit places to grow as a person. You have an obligation to do that. Don’t be an asshole.