You’ve travelled 8,000 miles. You hear foreign languages. They aren’t a lingua franca of your host country. Some faces are familiar, some more alien. Yet these masks don’t constitute the constituents of this land. You stroll the city. Yes, there are blizzard conditions in your home country, so the sunshine concomitant with the 90 degree afternoons remind you that you’re in another section of the planet. Yet, the short clad, sun-screen sautéed OECD passport carriers make you feel like you’re on a long weekend. Is this the adventure into the exotic that you imagined? Crowds overwhelm and selfie sticks poke into the air. Vendors overcharge for the basics of life. You grow suspicious of any native offering sightseeing recommendations.
You need to get away. Yes, you are away. But you need a taste of the mundane. A monotonous walk around a residential section of the city. Yeah, you might stand out. Should you bring your DSLR with the telephoto zoom lens? Nah leave that in your backpack. The backpack that you leave in your hotel. Your camera phone can hold your over. You’re hungry. You’re not fully familiar with the cuisine here. Some of these restaurants have pictures on the wall. You could always point and use some the survival phrases you learned on the plane ride over.
You need to get out of the comfort zone you’re in. Sure this city has all of the conveniences of modern life. You want some randomness. You pass the bus depot and inquire about a town that you’ve heard about. Without an itinerary you board the next vehicle departing for those coordinates. You look around. No one here is referencing a guidebook. No one has a backpack. No one notices you, until you have to speak of course. It’s fine. No one is threatened or overly intrigued. It’s chill. You enjoy the scenery.
You wanted to take part in some activities, especially those of the outdoor variety. You were dissuaded by a tourist in the city. The tours seemed rather contrived. Hiking is more like driving up to the top of the mountain. That’s cool for some, but you want to move at your own pace. You save these jaunts for later in your trip. You’re fortunate to have some friends, newly acquired and more established, who can introduce you to some new places. Some of these places are on a website. Many aren’t. Either way, it’s unlikely you would have made it to these places without them. You’re thankful.
You think about the future. How can you avoid this phenomenon? Maybe you can’t totally. This land supports itself in part by welcoming a throng of tourists with lax visa restrictions and attractive costs, i.e. it’s cheap. Be realistic, this may be a once in a lifetime trip. How can you not visit this monument or that landmark. That’s valid. Some places deserve a visit. A few are mandatory. You want to be present, in the moment. Take pictures but don’t just capture your moments for social media’s quickly fading memory stream. You try to balance your sightseeing with times to just slow down and savor your surroundings. You don’t make a scavenger map of the thirteen places you want to visit before noon. You have an idea of what points of interest you’d like to take in. You leisurely move about at your own pace. You have some structure, but more flexibility.
You seek new experiences, but you all seek out familiar experiences in your new surroundings. Rather than dabbling in a new hobby for a few hours, you seek something that you already have a passion and adroitness in. Your pursuit allows you to have a experiences with people whom you share interests with. You have a more nuanced understanding of each other. You enjoy what you’re doing for it’s own sake and have the pleasure of meeting new people in the process. People who are from an opposite side of the earth, but share parallels with you.
You notice a lot of fads in your new environment. You wonder why some tourists are so easily influenced by it. Some to the point of altering their attire. Some allow themselves to find an abrasive assertiveness that they’ve just discovered since getting off the plane. You stay grounded. No one knows you here. There are no neighbors to worry about. Your citizenship grants you privilege. You acknowledge that. You're respectful towards others and you stay true to yourself.