Imagine the last time you traveled or visited a new place. I know it seems impossible to imagine anything but the confinement of our homes right now but bare with me.. You are probably smiling, admiring the new surroundings. Maybe you’re on a beach and listening to the waves crash against the sand, or walking through a city creating memories with your family and friends, or if you’re really lucky you’re outdoors exploring the beautiful works of Mother Nature. Either way you’re a tourist.
Tourist (by Google's definition) is: a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.
I love being a tourist because everything is new and unexplored. It’s the best feeling. Whether it’s a train, bus, or airplane I just hopped off of, I am now in a new city with unfamiliar surroundings. I usually resemble that little kid you take to the park that’s so over-stimulated by everything around them that they have no idea what to do first. Like should I go down the slide.. OO or maybe I climb up the slide.. OH the monkey bars.. SWINGSSSS. You get it, there’s fun stuff everywhere.
I like to spend the first few hours just exploring the city.. crossing off one thing after another on my to do list… Eat this, go here, go there, try this, etc. In the process, I find myself smiling ear to ear looking in awe at every building, every restaurant, and every coffee shop. There’s usually nothing notably spectacular about any of it, but it’s new and again it’s unexplored. My favorite is when the streets are a little crowded and the everyday hustle and bustle is in full swing. I’m immersed in people’s everyday routines. I like observing and trying to imagine what their day holds or where they might be headed. Maybe they are walking to work or meeting a friend for lunch. For them, it’s just another day but for me, I’m the tourist that doesn’t know my left from my right (this is true more often than not) and I’m admiring the new, unfamiliar streets.
When I’m in this “tourist mode” it’s like I view life in slow motion and my senses are heightened. I become so observant of the things around me because I don’t want to miss a thing. But not only am I observing, I am truly appreciating the city or place for what it has to offer. It’s funny because at what point do we get out of that tourist mode in our cities and our everyday life?
The buildings I’m staring at in awe, sparking all sorts of happy emotions through me, are just buildings to the people that live there. Or the CUTEST little coffee shop that (I swear for the 50th time) has the BEST cup of coffee ever, is just the locals daily Togo order. Part of their daily routine or not, it doesn’t stop me from cheersing my perfect cup of coffee at the next person that walks through the door.
When you live somewhere you might become immune to the beautiful and unique things that surround you but a tourist is going to notice and appreciate every little thing. For example, Colorado locals probably don’t stop and admire the view of the mountains the same way a tourist would because they are spoiled with that view everyday. So this brings me back to the question I asked before.. At what point do we get out of that tourist mode in our cities and our everyday life? When do we stop being grateful for those things around us?
More often than not, I think this happens when we get comfortable with our daily routines and we begin taking the little things for granted. I’m writing this on quarantine day 43597 (or so it feels) and my guess is we’ve found a new appreciation for our cities and everything in them. But ask yourself, why did we need our lives turned upside down to be grateful for the things already around us?
As things begin to reopen, slow down and live life like a tourist. You don’t have to be in a new city or place to really appreciate the things that are around you. Be a tourist in your everyday life. Be observant and be grateful. Discover and absorb the beauty of your own city. As much as I dream of exploring through the unfamiliar streets in a new place, I’ve discovered I’m even more excited that I will get to act like a tourist in my own city. I can’t wait to for the first time I can walk into my favorite restaurant because even though I’ve been there probably 20 times in the past year, it’s going to feel like the first time. Or when I’m able to sit down at my go-to coffee shop again, something tells me it will be the best cup of coffee I have EVER had. There’s going to be a new beautiful way we look at our cities and it’s going to be through the eyes of a tourist.
Most importantly, I hope this time in our lives teaches us gratitude and how to appreciate the things that once had been routine. I hope we’ve learned that the things around us aren’t “ours” to take for granted. (Like toilet paper) I hope we learn to appreciate our cities like they are new cities and friends like they are new friends. That it allows us to look back and see that the simple things in life are the things to cherish the most.. like visiting with friends and family and not having to worry about staying six feet apart, or the ability to sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers cheering on your favorite sports team or even something as simple as giving a hug… like seriously I didn’t realize how often I greet people with a hug until I was no longer able to. So sure I can’t wait to jump on an airplane and be a carefree tourist again but I’m even more excited for this opportunity to reset society and to get back to truly being grateful for the things already around us.