Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to be a Real Tourist

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Do you like to travel? If you do, then have you ever made a whole bunch of your fellow travellers uncomfortable with your cringe inducing presence? Have you ever improved the quality of a tourist spot just by leaving it? Do you have that application on Facebook which shows the various cities and countries that you have travelled to? If your answer to any or all of the above questions is a loud no, then ladies and gentlemen, consider this an intervention. Clearly, you’ve been missing out. And as a concerned citizen, I consider it my patriotic duty to help you correct that.

First things first. If you’re using public transportation to get to your destination, remember that you paid good money for your ticket. So you better avail every service that they provide. For starters, you should charge all your electronic items on the train. That’s what they’re there for! You should monopolize all the electronic sockets near your seat for as long as your journey lasts. Other people should’ve planned ahead. Why didn’t those moochers charge their cheap tablet at home anyway? Also, grab every food or beverage they serve you. Even if you’re not either hungry or thirsty. Even if it looks like it carries a thousand diseases. Don’t be one of those hippies who don’t take things that they’re legally entitled to because they don’t feel like it. The service providers probably expect you to take those sachets of sugar or those cheap headphones with you anyway. Why add extra work for the staff by leaving things behind?

Then, as soon as you are a few minutes away from the end of your journey, stand in the aisle with all your luggage so that you're ready to get down the second the blurry visuals passing by vaguely resemble your destination. Remember, it’s a race! Whoever leaves first wins! Even if it’s only the satisfaction of leaving a claustrophobic confines of a public transportation vessel a few minutes before the rest of your fellow passengers. Don’t wait for your mode of transport to slow down before you start taking down your luggage from the overhead compartment. It’s always safer to do it while trying to stand still in an object moving at a high speed! You’re not liable to fall down or cause injury to other people at all. The laws of motion, like other laws you don’t care about, were meant to be broken.

Further, always haggle with the porter for cheaper rates. They expect you do it. Even if it is in a foreign country where they don’t include the possibility of bargaining in their pricing strategies. Hey, if those who survive on minimum wage want to scam you for your money, why don’t they open a fancy resort like normal people? This is why you also never tip at restaurants. You’re not going to show up at this place again anyway, so why reward good service?

Don’t forget to take pictures of everything, so that many years later you can remember the time when you were present to see this awesome sight befolding in front of you and you were taking a picture so that you could enjoy the experience later. Even if you’re never going to look at any of these photos again! A grainy cellphone picture is always better than actually being there. You should even take pictures of museum items like old paintings. Sure, the light from the flash in your camera might damage them, and you can buy a replica at the souvenir store, but why should you be forced to buy something which the shitty camera in your phone can record for free?

Your experience is not going to be complete without sharing your pictures with a few thousand of your closest friends on social media. It’s the modern version of the classic ‘wish you were here!’ postcard. Except more passive-aggressive and self-aggrandising. You could be a little subtle and let the location tags in your pictures and tweets reveal where you really are. Or you could go all guns blazing like a real townie and let everybody know where you really are by talking about your existential experience at a famous landmark.

When you’re looking for food to eat, always look for something familiar. You didn’t come all this way to try something new! Who does that? Look for a restaurant serving your native cuisine or a local franchise of a fast food chain. Most of the time time the food will taste very different from what you’re used to. This will give you a great opportunity to feel superior and talk about your travels when you’re back home. Oh, I couldn’t find a decent portion of butter chicken anywhere in Florence! Even a rodent could whip up a more edible casserole of Ratatouille than what they serve in Kanpur!

Now that you’re armed with these tips, go forth and see the world. Don’t let silly things like “common courtesy” or “the opinion of other people” bother you. 

After all, they still don’t allow Yelp reviews of individual tourists.


guitarlover said...

hilarious. i must confess at times i tried not to be 'real' tourist, but then i was. great article.

Prachi said...

The person who couldn't find decent butter chicken in Florence obviously did not do the one important thing all cool tourists do. Check for best Indian restaurants in Florence on Tripadvisor...She/he would not have been disappointed

G said...