Consider the word ‘tourist’. Does it fill you with revulsion and an unfounded hatred? Do you start to see unsaintly combinations of sandals with socks and oversized cameras?
Now consider the word ‘traveller’. It sounds melodic and dreamy doesn’t it? A traveller sounds like a person you would want to get to know, perhaps have a coffee with while discussing the principals of Rousseau’s social contract. A traveller would be the kind of person you would happily follow on Instagram. The tourist? Not so much.
Although we hate to admit it, we are all tourists when we travel overseas and we are skilled at pretending otherwise. We treat other tourists like lepers and ensure we never fall in those ‘tourist traps’ or, heaven forbid, dress like one.
In Florence, half the city’s population between the months of April and October are tourists, and on my first day in the city, I feel its full force. A kaleidoscope of accents fill my ears and I struggle to find a restaurant that doesn’t feature their menu in eight languages. I use the word ‘struggle’ purposefully because I concede that I am the quintessential hypocritical tourist. I will go out of my way to dodge those wearing Nikons and sporting phrasebooks while I won’t go anywhere without my trusty Berlitz.
I’m greedy. I want to soak in the beautiful, orange-hued roofs in this historic town, visit the artisanal laboratories, eat the fresh Caprese salads and walk the narrow footpaths without the bother of another tour group marching behind their flag-wielding leader.
I wonder how many places remain in the world where you can have that luxury of revelling in this dream of unperturbed beauty and exoticism. For now, it’s easier to remind myself that whether I am a tourist or traveller, I am a necessary component of a world that grows more curious and connected by the day.