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Why I Embrace Being a Tourist

Tourist has evolved into a dirty word.

Ask anyone who enjoys traveling the following question: are you a traveler or a tourist? Of course, everyone wants to think of themselves as the former, not the fanny pack-wearing latter. Well, I am proud to say that after 15 years of travel to 64 countries, I am and will always be part tourist.

Want proof? Here’s my most embarrassing tourist habit by far. After a week or so of being in another country, I crave a burger. A local guide will interpret my craving as a need for a fancy burger. Not so.

I don’t want a big juicy 100-percent beef burger. I want a down and dirty, all-American fast food burger. I want Burger King. You know what I’m talking about: a burger that doesn’t come on a plate. One that must be retrieved from inside a bag. One that I deeply regret eating after I wolf the whole value meal down in under five minutes.

Why I Embrace Being a Tourist

To be honest, this craving isn’t always after I’ve been in a country for a week. Sometimes, I want that Whopper a few days in, when I’m still suffering from jet lag, I’m starving and god help me if I have to decipher a menu or try to sound coherent to a waiter. I’m in no mood for an aptitude test. I just want to eat Burger King.

Of course a “traveler” would never succumb to something so…tacky. Yet here I am. And this blog is in celebration of those touristy ways, whether it’s partaking in the obvious and clichéd, being goofy like stopping to see every roadside attraction on Route 66 or just doing something because it’s freakin’ convenient (hello, Burger King).

In honor of summer and the freedom from seriousness it allows, let’s embrace the fun, the hokey, the pure innocence and unpretentiousness of being a tourist.

Here are some of my favorite touristy habits:

1. Ordering a daiquiri and really liking it.
2. Spending more time in the museum shop than the museum.
3. Composing a shot so that it looks like you are pushing against or picking up something iconic like the Leaning tower of Pisa. Or in my case, an unsuspecting panda bear.
4. Ordering the food item on the menu that is “famous.”
5. Collecting state refrigerator magnets, iron on patches or t-shirts. Or all of the above.

Okay, your time to come clean, what’s the most embarrassing touristy thing you do?

photo by Alan Cordova.

Tourist has evolved into a dirty word.  Ask anyone who enjoys traveling the following question: are you a traveler or a tourist? Of course, everyone wants to think of themselves as the former, not the fanny pack-wearing latter. Well, I am proud to say that after 15 years of travel to 64 countries, I am and will always be part tourist.

This Post Has 81 Comments

  1. I did a pic similar to yours… but it looks like I am holding the Taj Mahal with my fingers. 🙂

  2. I have the cheesy refrigerator magnets and shot glasses, and I don’t even drink. I think my biggest touristy thing is postcards. I have lot of them. I like to take pictures with my waiters.

  3. We ate at a KFC in London. We were tired and hungry, and just didn’t feel like searching for a restaurant. Sometimes you just have to go with what’s easy and familiar! ????

  4. I go for the T-shirts, frig magnets, and shot glasses not to mention now the doll in traditional clothing for my granddaughters. And the grandsons get local country animals.

  5. always buy a state map magnet from the state we visited. also buy magnets from most every attraction. refrigerator is full.

  6. I have started collecting Christmas ornaments…usually not too expensive and easy to carry…also, you can usually find Girl Scout patches…again, inexpensive and easy to carry

  7. My husband loves foreign Mc Donald’s. He calls them the American Embassy.

    I love a great view. I find the highest point and enjoy the view. Sometimes it’s at the top of a downtown building, I am drawn to the windows, look out with my face pressed against them like a toddler

  8. Ha, ha, to all the above, I think I do all of them but my worst trait is taking pictures of literally everything, street signs, pigeons on the sidewalk, anything. Normal folks just don’t do that.

  9. I must confess that I take tour buses if I’ve never been to a particular city before. I figure they know the interesting parts of town better than I do! See you at the airport, SB!!!

    1. We traveled all over England and the restaurant we always searched out were the Hard Rock Cafes! Very touristy of us I think!!

  10. I love fanny packs! Hands are free and it doesn’t hurt my shoulders like a backpack. Also, I bought a jar of peanut butter in Spain to eat with apples. No Nutella for me.

  11. I found a Burger King in the Munich Train Station. I understand wanting something from home. I collect Christmas Ornaments.

  12. We collect coffee cups. Our mornings come with a reminder of places we have traveled. When the grandchildren visit we might have to hide the one from Florence that has the nudes on it. I’m not ready to explain why David and Venus don’t have any clothes on.

  13. After a week or so, I’m craving my Starbucks Americano. Hitting the one at Paddington Station on my way to Heathrow in London has become a long standing tradition. It makes me feel like I’m halfway home.

    1. There used to be a Krispy Kreme store at Paddington (that went away when the shops section was rehabbed). I’d pick up a mixed dozen for the hotel front desk crew, which made me a minor celebrity whenever I’d visit. And the occasionally upgraded room would follow, btw.

  14. There’s the good old standby- sing your National Anthem with no warning.

    Will you post your T.V. schedule here under a tab, like “T.V. Schedule?”
    I know you have been replaced by a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t even really have to do with travel on the travel channel, so you don’t have much of a t.v. schedule- but sometimes you are in something on t.v. – some people would be interested in tuning into a little ray of light once in awhile- like The Wizard Of Oz, or Alice In Wonderland, or one of your favorite movies, “Cinema Paridiso.”
    Sometimes you like to go back, and feel the positive.
    You who are reading this, fellow Sam Brown “fans,” don’t you think a t.v. schedule might look good on this site? Since she is on somewhere pretty much all the time. Maybe your people can get to her people about this.
    The YouTube videos are just the same videos I already saw.
    For those not on Facebook or Twitter, and hardly on a computer….
    BTW, that is a cute animal in that picture above.

  15. I collect watercolor prints of places I have visited, 4×6 or 5×8 are good sizes to fit in the suitcase –and I frame them when I get home. Places like La Sagraida Familia in Barcelona and a flower filled alley in Taormina, Sicily. So enjoyable to remember vacations, and fun to explain them to visitors.

  16. I have a pix of me kissing the syphnx and we ate mc Donald’s burgers sitting in a window overlooking Luxor. And I thought I was a traveler too.

  17. I have been collecting those little ceramic desk trinkets that are symbols of the location, like a leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Dutch Windmill, etc. Now I need a bigger desk!

  18. My wife brings back a Christmas ornament from each country we visit. I just latch on to some small rock from a vineyard or place of interest. That can become heavy if we visit too many “interesting” places.

  19. There’s nothing to touristy for me to do. I’m a sucker for the cheesy and gift shops. I am not ashamed to show when I’m moved by something. That being said I bring home coffee mugs and magnets.

  20. I’m a Burger King fanatic too! We’ve eaten them all over the world. I like to compare the menus with those of the USA and see how much food costs in other countries.

  21. After 2 weeks in Scandinavia without seeing chicken on any menu, we found a TGIF in Copenhagen and indulged in some fried poultry!

  22. I hunt down the penny smashing machines! And i always ask the “locals” for a hole in the wall eatery. I love the greasy spoons- mom and pop diners!

  23. I spend more time in the museum shop than the museum as well! I collect key chains and watches from places I travel!

  24. My favorite mementos are photos! However, since I pack really light, no matter where I’m going, I also go for the frig magnets. No fast food for me. 🙂

  25. Samantha, I was thrilled to hear about your Burger King craving, etc. I thought I was the only “tacky tourist” that sometimes craves American food while on a trip. Makes me feel better to know that even a world traveler gets those cravings. I always buy a refrigerator magnet in each country we visit. Every time I open the fridge I see all our travels and have wonderful memories. I also buy something to hang on the Xmas tree — in Germany I bought a very touristy small beer stein replica, and just put a hanger on it for the tree.

  26. When we were going through several cities in several countries on a river cruise, we collected hat pins that we put on a baseball cap we were given. The hat with the pins becomes a great conversation starter about the cities and sights we visited.

  27. After 5 days in Costa Rica, I got tired of their delicious traditional and typical food, so I ran to the nearest junk food place my eyes could spot, in this case Taco Bell!

  28. when we travel I collect christmas ornaments and my husband collect lapel pins. he always goes to Hard Rock and buys pins from there. We are going to the Christmas markets this year

  29. I like to say that it is my daughter that collects miniature snowglobes. When I think it is really me wanting to go to tourist shops. And even weirder that in most countries, “snowglobe” translates to snowball. (not super convenient to be asking for in the middle of summer in most places…or what might be pointed out to me in winter). Happy Touristing.

  30. I love cook books the kind that come from the church bazaar and visiting the grocery store to see what they have that we don’t have at home and buy it. Be it a type of candy, jam or tea who cares.

  31. We have been collecting Christmas ornaments for several years. Recently I also started getting tequila shot glasses from the places we’ve been and when we go back home I take them to my office and fill them up with paperclips. I have at least two sizes of paperclips, so at least two shotglasses at any given time. They’ve been known to disappear!

  32. Our family loved living in Shanghai for several years, and traveled around China and Asia during our kids’ school breaks. We ate authentic, local cuisine most of the time, but sometimes, we just craved the occasional taste of home from McD’s, KFC, Burger King, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, or Subway. I agree with a fellow poster that it was fun to compare how similar or different items were to what we’d get in the states. A favorite treat? Red Bean Paste filled pies from McDonald’s around Chinese New Year! Our son collected a small souvenir from every country we visited, and now has a cool travel shelf with all of them to remember all our fun travels. Our daughter collected ethnic minority dolls around China and other Asian countries. I collected t-shirts on all our Asian vacations to make into a one-of-a-kind T-SKIRT. We consider ourselves to be intrepid travelers, but we were happy to be tourists in Asia, too!

  33. I love to travel and on each of my travels I had to collect magnets that at one point my refrigerator side was completely covered

  34. Ahhh, Whopper at BK on the Swiss highway near Basel for Sfr 18 – if you don’t know how much that is in $$, you’re a tourist.

  35. When I was in Paris, there was a McDonalds by the Metro, so we ate there everyday before heading out to do our sightseeing. As far as souvenirs go, I found a gift shop with cheap Eiffel Tower key chains, so I bought 20 of them for all my family and friends!

  36. I must be Sammthas twin, I feel the same way. Got a hold of Burger King coupons and had several meals in Amsterdam. Cheapest meals possible and tasty too.

  37. Ordering iced tea at a restaurant while vacationing in Italy. With the only beverages offered at Italian restaurants being wine and bottled water, after 6 days this Southern gal needed a sweet tea fix. The restaurant owner proudly produced a dusty aluminum-canned tea. It was awful! Lesson learned: Italians do not drink iced tea!

  38. We go to one of the top 20 restaurants on trip advisor. And yes sometimes it has a menu in ENGLISH. We go to the tourist attractions we want to see before we branch out – hey they are attractions for a reason. We watch American TV when it is available.

    I totally agree, when did tourist become a bad word? We so don’t blend in even when we wear shoes instead of sneakers so why not be comfortable?

  39. I always collect a Christmas ornament ~ that way when we decorate our tree, I can remember the trip. I’ll even go for the specialty ones; I have a Little Mermaid 100th anniversary one from Denmark!

  40. If there’s a Hard Rock Cafe…yeah, we’re there. And never leave without buying an overpriced white t-shirt with the logo and the city’s name.

  41. I tend to go straight to the iconic shop–those that sell what the country is most famous for. Like Scotland–kilt shops in Edinburgh. And while I’m in that country I buy the tackiest famous symbol in miniature sold as a Christmas ornament.

  42. Grocery store shopping bags… Spain had the best… Love to brag about where they come from at the local supermarket!

  43. Definitely am a tourist. my husband and I must have a plate, magnet and keychain in every place we visited. I added flags,dolls, glass shots, whatever caught my eyes.
    Our tiny place is filled up with our travel souvenirs and it’s fun. The latest cravings, macDonalds at Catania, Sicily 2016

  44. I almost always have a camera hanging around my neck & take LOTS of photos! I also send postcards to & buy bracelet charms for my nieces from most places we go. And yes, fast food cravings have hit us in unexpected places. I think we ate at the McDonalds in Venice 3X’s. Not only was it expensive to eat in Venice but the leisurely pace sometimes was too slow for our hunger. FAST. FOOD. NOW! In Madrid we were so sick of tapas that when we tripped over a burger joint while sight seeing we nearly cried with joy. Still one of our fondest memories of Madrid!

  45. After spending 4 days in Paris I was craving listening to English. We had to change hotels so the second hotel had CNN, i watched about 2 hours uninterrupted and i loved it. I am very ashamed to accept this.

  46. Remember the days of sterling silver charm bracelets? I have charms from all over the world… more than eighty… there is absolutely no room left and my bracelet is quite heavy to wear — when I do for special occasions its almost like a getting a work out. Arm curls while drinking wine! I always try to find unique art work to bring or send home.

  47. I collect the reusable shopping bags. Great for all kinds of “toteing” jobs and weigh nothing in your luggage ! You can get a bunch and the are always very inexpensive and great for gift giving too when you return home! Everyone loves them!

  48. Breakfast at Burger King in Budapest, not planned but as we walked by, noticed lots of Route 66 decorations so had to go in which turned into a quick meal.

    I take pictures of local wine bottle labels that we have tried. Try to buy a artisan ceramic, artwork, ornament but make sure it was made there, not an import.

  49. I collect christmas ornaments. When i pull them out every December and add the new ornaments from that year it is fun as i hang them to remember all the wonderful places we have beento.

  50. The penny smashing machines is a must. Those are great souvenirs for my son to collect. I go for the pewter spoons. They have to be pewter or I won’t get them.

  51. We try to be travelers but usually end up caving and grabbing lunch at least once at a McDonalds or Burger King.

    Also, I collect earrings. Nothing obvious, just when I wear them later they bring back memories.

    1. I am glad I am not the only one collecting magnets, shot glasses, plates, christmas ornaments, t shirts on all my travels. When I enter a Mc Donalds in a foreign country I feel at home.

  52. I definitely buy shirts, shot glasses and mugs when I travel. And am unapologetic about it! But, lately I’ve gotten in the habit of buying a piece of jewelry that will remind me of my travels. Or Christmas ornaments – I have enough now that I do a travel-themed tree!!

  53. I’ve started this tradition of buying a magnet and a Christmas ornament from each place we visit. (Mainly because they’re the cheapest things in the gift shop.)

  54. I am guilty of taking tour buses to get the “lay of the land”. I love getting ornaments from my travel destinations. My culinary downfall is diet soda with lots of ice!

  55. Yes, I too seek out the local McDonalds– you ‘generally’ know exactly what you’ll get and are surrounded by locals & other tourists alike. I will look for a local supermarket to see what they really eat and the tons of US products sold. I also do my currency check.. where I see what a can or bottle of Coke costs in the local currency (US $1.50).

  56. One time we are at the Burger King in the COEX mall in Seoul. There were so many other good and cheaper options but my parents really wanted something familiar and me too.

    I always like to visit the tourist spots and gift shops. I still try to spend money elsewhere and in the more local shops and eateries but I always visit the tourist traps.

  57. These days I try not to make any overseas purchases but if I can’t resist I try to buy something I will use that was handmade in the country, or something the country is known for. I was in Russia for a few weeks on a cruise. When we got to Moscow I saw a MacDonalds I practically ran off the ship to order a #1 ( which is the same worldwide) I didn’t really know what the other items were called by number. I sat down, unwrapped my meal, closed my eyes, took a bite and I was home. 😋

  58. I eat an incredible amount of pizza in Europe. I’m not such an adventurous eater so if I don’t care for the cuisine (Germany) I go ethnic-Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, kebab places-all reliable options for me. My first meal in Barcelona- a kebab place. First meal in Berlin-Vietnamese pho. Also, give me the sandwich and falafel places and the street food any day! In every country, I buy Tshirts!

  59. I collect magnets 🤭. I enjoyed each countries food but as a Peruvian I will eat at a Peruvian restaurant if there is one or right after arriving in NY on my way too CT 🤗.

  60. I collect cookbooks from restaurants I have enjoyed or places I have visited such as Oak Alley Plantation or Williamsburg, VA. My collection is as if I am revisiting my vacation. I even have one from Disney!!!

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Why I Embrace Being A Tourist
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