Do you hate feeling like a tourist?

Whenever I travel, I shrink from the moments when I act like a tourist—when I fumble with the unfamiliar money, when I pull out a map on the street, when I ask someone, “Do you speak English?” (uncosmopolitan me, I don’t speak any other languages).

But what’s the big deal?

Coming from New York City, I’m well accustomed to tourists. And I don’t mind them at all. It’s nice to see people visiting here from all over the world, and their enthusiasm always makes me realize afresh how lucky I am to live here—and all New Yorkers know how important tourists are to the city’s economic health. Most of all, I just don’t pay much attention.

But when I’m the tourist, I feel a childish agony of self-consciousness. Intellectually, I know that people aren’t staring in mocking disbelief, that they aren’t interested enough to feel disdainful.

It’s my foolish pride—my desire to appear smooth and sophisticated and in control. I imagine that if I traveled more, these feelings would wear off, or at least I’d become more skilful traveler.

But in the meantime, I keep reminding myself of something C. S. Lewis wrote: “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” I don’t want my pride to keep me from venturing away from the familiar.

It’s a sign of immaturity to be too concerned with my adult dignity.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • I found this comment to really inspire:
    “I don’t want my pride to keep me from venturing away from the familiar.”
    It’s a hard thing to over come – but once you have over come pride, a whole new world opens up.
    Keep up the good writing.

  • i lurve c.s. lewis. his bio from is really cool. on the tourist thing…it depends on how you mean, no one minds a tourist that sincerely wants to connect with the culture/people and places who want to be open to what the place has to offer. no one likes the tourist who refuses to TRY to say “hello” in the local language or TRY the strange sounding but harmless bread/cheese/whatever, who are loud and obnoxious. To me there is a difference between a traveler and a tourist.

  • I moved to France at the end of the summer and found a great phrase that helped me get over my worry about not knowing enough French.
    I start out every encounter at a store or on the telephone with (in French): My French is not very good, but I’m going to try.
    I notice a big difference in attitude when I start with that and when I just launch into broken French. With that one phrase, everyone’s much more willing to be patient and to be helpful.

  • Thanks for these encouraging words on being a traveller! They are very helpful right now, because I am turning around and heading to India — so will keep these thoughts in mind.