What does a typical tourist look like to you?
Lost? Out of place? Confused?
Have a camera hung around their neck? A map? A stuffed backpack? A book that says “Useful phrases in” whatever the local language is? A fashion sense that is not calibrated to the local style?
That guy or girl who sticks out like a sore thumb at whom the locals are pointing and laughing at?
Yes, it is slightly comical for the locals and quite embarrassing for the tourist. But that is not why tourism should be redefined.
The tourism that is associated with this mental image refers to a very detached view. It refers to having a strict agenda and to take what the place offers without offering anything in return. There is no flexibility as you stick to the schedule. Where’s the fun in that?
Yes, it’s cool to say that you saw Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. And that you got all these amazing pictures. And then after that you went hunting for game in the wildlife. All while staying in a fancy five-star hotel in the capital that cost a fraction of a night at a cheap motel in your home country. Did you really spend all that money just to take a few pictures and have cool stories to tell your friends over a beer or two?
How about saying that you did all of the above, except instead of staying in a fancy-five star hotel in the capital, you stayed in the spare room of a village hut in the Zambian countryside, about two miles away from Victoria Falls? And by doing so, you made some friends with the local villagers who offered to take you whitewater rafting along the Zambezi river. When you came back, you were cooked some authentic Zambian food and witnessed Zambian traditions and learned some of the local customs?
The second story sounds much cooler, doesn’t it? This is what tourism should be like.
You will have truly experienced a culture while being able to see all of the sights. You will also make friends and meet interesting and new people and gain different perspectives. You will have learned a few things that you can apply to your daily life. Life hacks, so to speak.
Let’s take it upon ourselves to redefine tourism as being able to actually experience a place in its fullest and purest form instead of being the outcast that just comes for the sights.
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