To Be A Tourist

Vogue Italia

Vogue Italia

Ah, tourists. How we like to turn our noses up at the backpack- or fannypack-clad, map-carrying souls who are being choked by their own cameras. How we laugh, especially in Europe, at the American tourists, so easy to spot with their tucked-in polo shirts, white sneakers, and patriotic baseballs caps or windbreakers. How silly they are, running around the city on a monument hunt, eager to snap photos of any stereotypical foreignness they come across before dropping exhausted either in a Starbucks or in a random café, just to be non-touristy.

But, then again, shouldn’t we all be tourists? (This won’t derail into a cheesy commentary on how we are all citizens of the world, so you can continue reading without fear.) However I am prompted to ask this question, especially after my friend Anna from Edinburgh (Texan origins) came to stay with us in Zürich on her journey across Europe. I’ve been living in Zürich for almost two months now and have visited plenty of times before. Naturally Anna wanted me to show her the city, but when we set out, I was a bit stumped of what exactly to show her. Yeah, there are some beautiful architectural designs and old churches, one with Chagall stained class windows(fancy, non?). Other than that I wasn’t quite sure about what there was to discover.

So we walked a bit, to the lake, through the old town, and then ended up at the national museum. The permanent exhibit there is on Swiss History and, having already been there once a year ago, I initially wasn’t too excited to go again. Once inside, however, my outlook completely changed. Being there with Anna and all the other non-Zürichites gave me a new perspective on living in Switzerland.

As a tourist you have a sense of excitement and wonder; you’re mind is in discovery mode and you can take in the beauty of a place. Sites, monuments, people, experiences don’t go for granted because, as a tourist, you’re only at a location for a limited amount of time. You’re motivated and ready to let this city, country, and culture into your life for a few hours or days. That is exactly the attitude I had when going to Vienna for my year abroad. Knowing that I was only here for nine or ten months completely changed my outlook. I saw so many things: exhibitions, monuments, the bottoms of so many plates of apple strudel and pints of Ottakringer. It was fun, it was effortless.

Although I am not exactly sure why I didn’t adapt this joie de vivre to living in Zürich. However it is most likely the indefinite nature of my stay. There is no fixed timeline, that is, I have all the time in the world to be a tourist if I wanted to. For the moment I am just another inhabitant, used to the buildings, the streets, the people.

On that never ending quest of mine to be a complete, socially aware human being, the next task is to never lose that sense of wonder (I hesitated to phrase it like that, ‘I Hope You Dance’ earworm danger) for a new place, even if it isn’t all that new. So, watch out, Switzerland, here I come!

[Images from Vogue Italia]

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