Belgian waffles with fruit

How to Not Be An Obnoxious Tourist

I judge people on how they travel. I’m sure people do it to me, too. I’ve traveled quite a few different ways, and know how I like to travel best. I’m a wandering, sit at a cafe and people-watch type. Maybe it’s because I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot from a young age, but I don’t feel the need to “see the sights” (unless we’re in Paris and I want to go to the Louvre) or take 5 million pictures.

When I was younger and traveling with my parents, we either did cruises (usually my spring break) or group tours. I know, I know, I was one of those people following that obnoxious tour guide with the umbrella. I was one of the herd. We did touristy things. But I did have a lot of fun on some of those group tours – mainly because of the random people it threw together.

Up until my senior year of college I didn’t take any major trips on my own initiative.  Sure, I went to Montreal for a long weekend with a good friend of mine, and studied in India and Bath. But Montreal was a short trip, and India and Bath were not trips where I was really in control of the itinerary.

The first time I could really travel how I wanted was when I went to Iceland with a dear friend of mine during our spring break senior year. Yes. During spring break we went North-ish. Both of us are obsessed with Lonely Planet travel books (you tell me what that says about us), so we spent days beforehand pouring over the guidebooks and earmarking the places that we wanted to go. And then we didn’t get to half of them. We wandered; legitimately just walked around Reykjavik‘s streets for hours.

Of course, we found a way to get to the Blue Lagoon. I think we spent 5 hours there, at least. We rented a car and drove around the Ring Road. We also spent hours in the evening watching Arrested Development at our hotel, and not going out on the runtur. Which we totally didn’t mind. I treat travel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, in that I do what I want to do, even if that means spending the day sitting a a local cafe reading.

Belgian waffles with fruit
I like food. At lot.

Then I lived in China for a year, and rather than fly straight back to the US, I traveled my way back West. Solo travel was an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Never once did I get robbed or feel threatened. The one thing that I learned about myself traveling alone, though? I am obsessive about knowing how I’m getting somewhere and where I am staying.

I am not one of those travelers that is good traveling on the fly. At least when it comes to traveling by plane. I think the hinderance there, too, was that I had a very set amount of time before I either had to meet someone or be somewhere specific, so I didn’t have large amounts of wiggle room. Maybe it would be different if the travel was indefinite. But still, I did the same thing. Buy the travel guidebook. Note where I want to go, hopefully get there. Eat a lot of things. People watch.

My most recent travels to Cascais, Portugal I described as “a stay-cation in another country.” I didn’t really do much in the sleepy beach town. A lot of reading and eating gelato and watching sunsets. And that was exactly what I wanted. How do you travel?


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