I’m in a few travel groups on Facebook & Instagram + I follow a couple blogs that travel often. They’re all veteran travelers, or it appears that way. Maybe the most outspoken members are?
One common theme I’ve seen a lot of since joining travel groups or following travel blogs is this idea to avoid extremely tourist travel locations or activities, with the idea to experience the destination as a local would.
Although I completely understand where that mentality is coming from and have been known to preach the same way, the more I see posts & conversations like this the more I start feeling like I need to defend tourist hot spots.
First, traveling isn’t easy for everyone. For someone who hasn’t previously had the opportunity to travel OR for someone who has never been courageous enough to explore – traveling can be very intimidating. The money, language, navigation, and companionship can be scary. Even for me, after traveling with zero percent idea what the hell I was doing and somehow surviving, traveling still gives me anxiety. Tourist locations can offer a little relief. You’re in a group of people who also, don’t know what the hell they’re doing. People are confused, taking pictures, lost, excited, eating terrible food, and probably dressed 180 degrees opposite of the local style.
Second, is this a competition of the most adventurous? Where’s the smallest crack in the ass restaurant I can go to in order to show I’m “one” with the culture, or sky dive down an erupting volcano in an undiscovered mountain range in order to show how much of the planet earth I’ve been to? Sometimes a girl just wants to see the Statue of Liberty, buy a $40 foam crown visor, and eat corn out of a cup!
I sway back and forth with the tourist vs local way to see a destination.
While living in Dubai, my very favorite thing to do was the desert Safari – and there is literally nothing more touristy to do in Dubai than that damn desert Safari. But I loved it. And participated whenever I had the chance. At the same time, I avoided the tourist restaurants like the plague. You couldn’t pay me to eat that shit.
When I lived in the Dominican Republic, I LOVED eating the food at my host house because damnnnnnnn could my host mom cook a meal! (I’ll work on repeating some of those recipes for you guys.) And why would I eat at any popular restaurant over her meals?! HOWEVER, I spent several weekends at the resorts where you couldn’t find a single local. I laid out on the beach, drank dranks, chatted with Europeans & danced with other tourists to Dominican music… w/no Dominicans.
But what I want get across – if you want to do the desert safari in a car full of tourists or you want to take a ferry to the statue of liberty or you want to dance to Dominican music with no Dominicans IN the Dominican Republic: go ahead!
I would challenge someone that is going on a very touristy vacation to spend one night looking a little further for a restaurant that isn’t advertised, but the hotel check-in person recommends as their personal fav.
Or spend one afternoon shopping where a local buys their clothes.
Explore the local grocery store the hotel bartender goes to.
Finding something very simple to dig a little into the local culture will only make any travel experience more heartwarming, that’s what I’ve learned. HOWEVER, by all means stick to the tourist activities if you want to. Take pictures, look silly, talk to other tourists, because why not?
One thing I most definitely do not discriminate against – being a tourist.
I use my own judgement to decide between what’s a tourist trap and what’s simply a (sometimes) fun touristy activity. There’s a fine line for sure, but exploring both locally and w/in the tourist boarders is A-okay!
I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest for a really long time… I never want to talk about visiting a country, traveling or moving abroad in a way that’s intimidating or sets the bar high, or to be cool – because it shouldn’t be.