Over the last two years I’ve largely been a tourist rather than a native of my own country. And in that time I’ve been lucky enough to meet others far away from home and even those who call the places I visit home. But I’ve also developed a list of stories I’ve seen or overheard from other tourists, or even types of tourists that simply drive me mad. Here are some of those types and a story from the list…
The ‘Typical American’
I myself am American through and through, and a majority of people I know are American. This has nothing to do with them or myself though. Yet when one is on the road and away from Americans for any stretch of time they develop an eye and an ear for what make some of their fellow countryman noticeable.
There’s been many times when I’ve been walking the streets of Paris people watching and admiring the fashion of the city that’s so famous for it. When from around a corner comes a gaggle of tourists dressed in sweats, tennis shoes, fanny packs, and some sort of silly hat with a t-shirt of either their favorite band, restaurant, or vacation spot. They can’t help but stick out like a sore thumb and make you look away quickly in embarrassment.
Even if your fellow American does have a sense of style they can’t stay in hiding for long. If you’re within earshot the tone of their voice, the volume of said voice, or the way they say things immediately gives them away. Although once again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I love hearing a good american accent in a metro full of Parisians. It’s just when the ‘typical’ accent cuts through a crowd.
“Oh my god. Can you like believe how old everything is? Like I totally can’t. But I feel so so blessed to be able to like see this, and I feel soooo much more cultured now. Now come here you bitch and take a selfie with me.”
Or even the…
“Oh my gosh I can’t believe the service of the resturaunt we were just at. The french are so rude. And can you believe all the beggars here. I had three people try and grab my wrists today to tie those funny little strings around them. I can’t wait to get back to the hotel room. I just can’t believe that there is no A/C though. Only four more days then we’re back home.”
It’s in these little moments that I hang my head in shame.
The ‘Selfie Stickers’
I love hanging out around a good monument, soaking up the art at a museum, or even just walking the parks of any great city. Yet what breaks the moments from time to time for me and simply makes me sad are all the people who have become obsessed with the ‘selfie stick’.
Perhaps I just don’t understand people’s vainess and why so many would rather live their lives through a lens than put their phone in their pocket and enjoy the moment they’re in. I can’t begin to tell you how many couples I’ve seen walking around the Eiffel Tower with their sticks extended filming them just walking around and trying to look like they’re in love.
Or how many times I’ve been in a museum and seen people walk around taking pictures of every painting and description of said painting, to then just walk off and not even stop and look at the actual painting.
I suppose I just don’t understand this new phenomenon. I just wish people lived more in the moment, and were more worried about the sites and sounds rather than how to capture them best.
The ‘Typical American Family’ at the Vatican
While Jade and I were in Rome we had the pleasure of taking a tour through the Vatican.
The tour began in the visitors center and shop and then progressed through he Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and finally St. Peters Basilica. Our group was about 35 in size and before the tour had even begun Jade and I had picked out our favorite family to watch during the tour. The classic American family. A Mom and Pop and their daughter and son.
From the get go Jade whispered in my ear.
“Look at this boy over here”
I looked to my left and saw a youth of about 18 who was walking aimlessly around the shop flexing his muscles and looking like he was in constant pain, turmoil, and angst. An interesting sight to behold. As he tried to pay attention to his surroundings because he was supposed to, but look as uninterested as possible at the same time.
Later on in the tour I couldn’t help but overhear the Father talking to the daughter who was around the age of 15 or 16 if I had to guess and weighed around 300 pounds.
The Dad leaned in and whispered.
“Honey please just be patient and get through this tour. Do it for me and afterwards I’ll buy you whatever you want.”
I staggered back but continued the tour, keeping close to this couple, just incase I had the chance to overhear something more later on.
The tour continued without much else from them for some time though. The boy looked bored, the girl looked like she wished to be 30 other places and the parents were trying to enjoy it as much as they could. Eventually the daughter’s will won out though.
Toward the end of the tour, after the Sistine Chapel and right before we were about to enter into St. Peters the father came up to the tour guide and told her that the daughter wasn’t feeling well and that they were going to have to go. The son then came up to the tour guide and posed the question to her.
“So what’s inside the Church? Like what is it? Why is it important?” He tried to flash a charming smile and gave his muscles another flex. The guide just stared dumbly at him in disbelief.
“No, I’m being serious, what is in there.”
The tour guide starred on for a moment longer and then began to stutter into an explanation, obviously caught off guard as I was trying not to laugh.
He cut in before she could answer.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll just google it later.”
I imidiatly turned to Jade and said.
“So you could google it, or walk ten more steps and see it for yourself in real life and real time. Ok.”
Once again my faith in humanity was destroyed and I couldn’t help but wonder what the future might look like when these beings took it over.