10 years ago by

I love traveling but I hate being a tourist. Cause, you know, I have this constant internal battle of different points of views :
I’ve been a tourist (even thought I wouldn’t admit it), a local (and proud of it) and a world traveller (well, that’s what I thought).

Here, let me tell you what I’m talking about…

Tourists from my point of view, 25 to the present.

Damn tourists, such an annoying, and over-colorful crowd. Strolling way too slow through the streets and talking way too loud, either in languages I understand which takes away from the beauty of the landscape, OR in languages I don’t understand which makes me angry too because IF I had wanted to hear their language, I would’ve traveled to THEIR country.

No? Bah…

When I’m traveling, I don’t want to hear anything but the sweet sound of the local language.

Plus, the tourists, there are way too many of them. And all they want to do is one thing: the exact same thing I want to do. They’re always trying to go to the same restaurants as me and take the same plane as me. Makes me so maaaad!

When I travel, I travel like a local. I want to go to meet the locals and get off the beaten track, you see. I eat at the local joints and wouldn’t be caught dead with a Lonely Planet.

I’m way better than a tourist, you see?

Tourists from my point of view as a 14 year old local in my hometown (very touristic hometown).

Damn tourists. Just a mass of people who all look the same and are so noisy and tacky, spoiling MY beautiful country. And they ALL wear Birkenstocks, those weirdo shoes that take the shape of your feet.

Okay, yeah, I guess we wouldn’t be able to earn a living without them, seeing as they are our main source of income, but it would be better if they came, spent their money, and left being absolutely as discrete and hush hush as possible.

And I sure wish they would stop trying to speak Corsican because I don’t understand a word of their accent AND MY FRENCH IS JUST FINE THANK YOU BYE.

Oh, you just wait, seriously. AHH! Who is this person who just walked right into my bedroom when I was taking a nap? AND THEY WANT TO GET A TOUR OF THE HOUSE? There are signs everywhere. NO TRESSPASSING. VERBOTEN. I mean c’mon, it’s even written in German. There’s no excuse.

Another tourist trying to get “off the beaten track”. Those are the worst. The track exists for a reason. Can’t we have just three seconds of tourist-free life? CAN WE?!

Long live Lonely Planet, all I’m saying.

The locals as seen by me, the Great World Traveler.

Damn tourists. Tourism is so dumb. Travel, that’s the real deal. It’s an entirely different concept. Yeah, pass the joint. No, but you know what I mean though? Are we going on a trip? Yeahhhh, let’s toootally go on a trip.

Let’s go to [insert whatever developing country here] !!! It’s great! You can live for 20 euros a month easy? How cool is that?
And we’re not going with any stinking Lonely Planet, Obbbbv. We’re world travelers. We’re going to make friends with the locals. They’ll show us around. Friendship, maaaan. International friendship!

Should I dread my hair or what?

That’s pretty much what I sounded like at 18. Aaaaaah, we’re all so serious when we’re 18.

A few months later, there we were, and after a few drinks at a local bar with my two “world traveler” friends, we made friends with the locals. So cool. We started spending some time with them. They showed us their favorite spots in town, how they lived and all. We ate with the locals, drank with the locals, talked about the important stuff like international friendships. We even had a drum circle on the beach, you know, bro?

Then one day, it was time to leave.

And that’s when one of our new friends asked us…
… if we maybe had any money we could give him.

Shocked, hurt, upset, I went on thinking that the entire world was perverted and full of the worst people thinking only about money.

It took me a few days to understand.

What little pretentious pricks we had been. I’m still ashamed of my behavior when I think about it.

We thought we could swoop in and spend two weeks off the good graces of locals, without thinking for a second that their problems were probably more serious than “never ever taking a look at a Lonely Planet.” That they have families to feed. And other thing to do with their life than show three silly young kids around.

I’ll never forget that experience, the moment I realized that priorities are different depending on your latitude.

That friendship can exist in a million different ways but you can never forget where you came from. And even if you’re a student without a penny in your pocket, in certain countries and to certain people, you’re a billionaire.

For a longtime, I travelled only in countries that looked like mine because I realized after that trip that I needed to learn how to travel.

I stopped thinking of myself as a world traveler and accepted that going to another country, like I had told you here, is helping it as well as soiling it, and that the only thing to do it to try be humble.

I have a few principles that follow me everywhere I go… Especially in countries where my purchasing power increases tenfold.

-Don’t try to bargain too much.
Saying that “for them, $50 is a fortune!” is not a good reason to bargain for hours. Not chic.
I always try to think : what would be a good price for me? In my country?
And I don’t say anything when people tell me “that’s way too expensive! He must thought you were a gogo!”, I don’t care.

-Get a guide.
When you can (it’s often less expensive than you might think), it’s really a fanstastic way to understand the local culture and to get off the beaten trail. You usually end up meeting awesome folks.

-Try to stay in an eco-hotel.
More and more hotels are developing systems that boost the local economy and protect the environment. It’s so incredibly important, especially in countries where the water is scarce, for example.

-Be careful where you take pictures.
The Balinese loved to be photographed, but in Morocco, they’re not so happy when a camera is around.
I always try to pay attention to my behavior when I’m abroad.

There you go! I hope you have many magnificent trips, whether close to home or on the other side of the world. And if you have any advice for me, go for it! Being a good traveller is a lifelong apprenticeship…

PS: This picture is my collaboration with the brand Marc O’Polo.


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  • ce post est géniaaal ! Les touristes sont partout surtout en ce moment à Paris !!

  • i’m not sure if i know exactly the difference between tourist and traveler… :)

  • I’m in South Florida and I see my fair share of tourists on a daily basis. I love this illustration Garance. It is gorgeous.


  • I had so much fun reading this ! I have being a tourist too !

    XX Luba

    Featuring today polka dot skirt with Louboutin heels, see more at

  • Bien sûr, nous sommes les meilleures touristes – et pour reprendre votre dernier post et notre dernier commentaire…pas de Birkenstock pour nous !

  • Merci beaucoup pour cette leçon d’humulité, Garance! A garder en mémoire pour tous les touristes que nous sommes

  • Katarzyna August, 5 2013, 9:38 / Reply

    “Tourism – your everyday life is somebody else’s adventure.”

    Thank you Garance, especially for the look into being a local – I’ve never had this experience but I’ve always tried to imagine how locals, especially in small places with pristine nature, feel about tourists.

    Not wanting to be of much bother to local people, but still wanting to see the place from their point of view, I found a perfect solution in Couchsurfing society. It’s amazing!

  • while i was reading this i thought of my younger friends who do the “couchsurfing” thing and love it! it does seem to be a modern method that works…

  • David Foster Wallace has one very long and interesting footnote in his essay ‘Consider the Lobster’ summing up his thoughts on tourism and travel, which say, basically, that it is truly hard to be in a foreign country, difficult in so many ways, and so extremely good (and, as G says, humbling) for you, and the very thing you are there to see, some glimpse of local authenticity, is compromised by your being there to see it.

  • Pas simple, hein…pas simple du tout de tourister en pays étranger, même quand on se sent juste citoyen du monde, et qu’on a de bons sentiments a priori.
    Je me dis qu’il faut s’adapter au maximum au mode de vie local, renoncer à son confort si c’est un pays relativement peu développé, laisser en France ses habitudes.. Mais lorsqu’on voyage, on a aussi envie de se sentir bien, d’en profiter avec nos moyens et nos repères, sans se priver non plus. Ça ne doit pas enlever notre envie ou notre bonheur à voir du pays. Voyager, clairement, ça rend humble..

  • Je suis d’accord avec toi Garance, mais de toute façon qu’on le veuille ou non, tant qu’on sort de son propre pays on devient forcément un touriste, toute culture qui n’est pas la nôtre nous rend touriste et je trouve ça génial, au moins on a des millions de trucs à découvrir. D’ailleurs, voilà une semaine que je suis devenue touriste en Argentine, et je vais le rester pendant un an (études oblige), et je trouve ça vachement cool d’être touriste, j’apprends des milliers de trucs tous les jours en ce moment !
    Je t’embrasse, ton blog fait chaud au coeur quand on se sent si loin de son pays chéri !

  • Very interesting article, loved it like all your stories I must say. So nice you get to explain your way of thinking realisticly. The illustration is so nice and een the quote, I also hate being a touist myself but the story you wrote got me thinking!

    Love your blog!


  • ils sont dejà tous épuisés, les tish Marc O’Polo, ou pas encore en ligne?

  • I love this post! I highly recommend reading Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act:
    There is an art and skill to traveling gracefully that benefits everyone. And you return home a better person.

  • Le problème avec les touristes c’est qu’ils sont moches…et la plupart mal élevés.

    Même si j’ai habité à la Côte d’Azur ils ne m’ont pas trop dérangée. On allait se baigner à 6 heures du matin, puis on faisait nos courses puis on s’enfermait chez nous le reste de la journée (on avait un mur autour de la maison).
    Pour le reste je suis respectueuse des coutumes des endroits où je me rend et j’ai facile avec les langues donc j’apprends vite les mots qu’il faut dans la langue locale pour faire plaisir. Mais de là à avoir des remords de venir d’un pays plus riche, on oublie. On est tous des gringos auxquels il faut soutirer un max de fric. Pour tous ces gens, blanc = riche et c’est eux qui ne se rendent pas compte à quel point la vie est chère et difficile en occident et que tous les gens qui on épargné pour s’offrir un voyage ne sont pas des richards qui peuvent faire pleuvoir des billets dans les médinas.
    En fait c’est partout la même chose de la Côte d’Azur à Tombouctou: on aime l’argent du tourisme mais on n’aime pas les touristes. C’est comme ça…

  • Entièrement d’accord avec toi…sauf pour le Guide du Routard ;)
    S’informer un minimum où l’on va mettre les pieds ça veut aussi dire ne pas mettre les pieds dans le plat…Et 2000 fois oui pour le guide…ce qui permet généralement de s’aventurer là oú il n’y a pas toujours d’infrastructures touristiques et apprendre plein de choses sur la culture du pays!

  • I Always hate to be a tourist to but sometimes you just are one of them. Always try to blend in, thats my trick. And I also love to hang out with locals, best way to get to know a city better and better.

    xo Hanneke

  • Can I add a personal tip? Everytime I visit a foreign country I’m used to taking a bus or a train without having a specific destination. I can see life out of the tourists place and experience something about how people live and where. Sometimes it happens that someone asks me for information about streets and train or bus schedule and I love it because it means that mixed up with locals I can watch them from the inside.

  • Assez d’accord avec toi ! Etre touriste c’est d’abord respecter les “locaux” et le lieu que l’on visite… ne jamais faire aux autres ce que l’on ne supporte pas chez soi…
    Avis d’une “locale” du bassin d’Arcachon ;-)
    Et il y aurait beaucoup à écrire sur les bizarreries des touristes…. avec le sourire bien évidemment… quoi que parfois…

  • Je crois que le plus grand voyage que l’on fait, c’est de suivre l’homme qu’on aime dans un pays étranger, pour y parler une autre langue, y découvrir réellement une autre culture… Ce sont là mes voyages préférés.

    Mafalda ?

  • We love the tourist who act like citizens. We are agree with you.

  • Un très bon post Garance. Le passage sur les limites au marchandage est particulièrement juste. Je trouve particulièrement écoeurants ces ‘grands voyageurs’ logotés de partout et i-phone/pad/podisés qui regardent de haut ceux qui paient trop cher et ‘cassent le marché’, oubliant que fondamentalement ils ont devant eux des gens pauvres et ce alors que chez eux ils paient beaucoup plus sans moufter pour … quoi au fait?

  • J’ai beaucoup aimé ce post et les points de vue que tu adoptes. Vivant une bonne partie de l’année, expatriée, dans un pays très pauvre, je cherche depuis longtemps à trouver l’équilibre entre l’aigreur du “il me prend pour une conne ou quoi?!” et le sentiment de culpabilité quand je marchande “trop” (mais en tant qu’expatrié/immigré, se rajoute, je crois, le désir de se sentir accepté et respecté en tant qu’habitant à part entière via un “traitement économique” à l’égal des autochtones – alors que simultanément, j’éprouve beaucoup moins de difficulté à accepter mon niveau de salaire occidental++, ce qui est à la fois paradoxal et hypocrite…).

    Et j’en ai conclu que quand on est étranger – touriste, immigré/expatrié – le plus difficile n’est pas dans l’effort vain pour se fondre dans le paysage exotique (le fantasme du “voyageur”), mais au contraire dans l’acceptation de notre irréductible et visible altérité.

  • Ma famille fait du vin en Bourgogne, et BON SANG qu’est-ce qu’on a pu râler contre ces touristes qui débarquent sans prévenir à l’heure du déjeuner (ou de la sieste) et demandent si on a le temps de leur proposer une dégustation… (“oui mais non, là on déjeune, vous voyez…Non, on ne vous invite pas à table et on ne peut pas vous cuisiner de boeuf bourguignon, bordel, on est au mois d’Août, c’est un plat d’hiver!”)
    Mon oncle et ma tante ne disent jamais rien quand des touristes s’invitent et prennent la propriété en photo, mais en revanche faut pas exagérer non plus, on travaille et on n’est pas à votre disposition tout le temps, surtout pendant les horaires de repas.

  • Il m’a fallu venir vivre en France et quelques années ici pour pouvoir comprendre l’importance du temps de repas en France. D’où je viens et dans d’autres pays, on ne ferme pas les magasins à midi pour aller manger ou les commerçants ne se sent pas particulièrement dérangés pendant ce temps. C’est juste la différence des cultures et une nuance que si on vient d’ailleurs, on ne va pas pouvoir comprendre tout de suite que en France les horaires de repas sont sacrées et un simple coup de fil peut vexer quelqu’un.

  • Tes reflexions et tes observation meme si agréablement ironiques me font penser combien on est devenu intolérant l’un vers l’autre(sinon pour l’argent)

  • The labels for me are not the problem. Peoplecan travel as a tourist, immigrant, working, adventure, scientist, world traveller. be called as foreigner, it’s more about their behaviour and respect that matters. For example like clothes or even just the way seating or moving hands. Local people also sometimes not better in respecting their own country and culture value. As for my self I want travel as a tourist right now like in easy tour package for holiday hehehe.

  • Love your blog!
    I’m posting looks from L.A. and accessories:

  • To me, traveling is not about completing a checklist of all the big attractions, what satisfies me is to sample the lifestyle, to discover the flavors of each district, the color of people. of course it is always better enjoyed with a loved one.

  • Hello Garance,
    Indépassable paradoxe, suis bien d’accord!!
    Du coup, avec une copine, on a monté un site Beyond Croissant, qui permet d’aller dîner chez les locaux:
    Attention, on a aussi un presque humour Garance Level (déjà, bon, on s’appelle Beyond Croissant) et on écrit un billet sur la Corse qui explique comment ne pas se faire rouler dans la farine-même-pas de chataîgne. ça s’appelle Beyond Saucisson d’âne!
    Si t’as un moment, je serai ravie d’avoir le retour d’une corse…

  • I wonder… we are all tourists and locals, is there any platform (in the internet) where we can find each other? concept I show you mine and you show me yours?

    I do it with my friends already, who are quite international, but not all my favorite destinations are covered :) Also I realize this happens here already with the city guides/corsica guides, but even with less “famous” people it would be fun ;) I could show you around in my town, and then I would go to your town and you show me around; does this exist?

    I really enjoy Garance’s travel guides!!! I am from Milan, and after the city guide was posted I checked out a few things, really nice! please continue! :)
    Love, E

  • Katarzyna August, 5 2013, 4:44

    It does. It’s called couchsurfing.

  • Léonore August, 6 2013, 8:55

    And couchsurfing works.

  • Savoir sourire à l’autre quand on est “local”, savoir être humble et ouvert, attentif aux autres, quand on est “touriste”… Le tout est d’être bien conscient que notre statut tourne en fonction de nos déplacements autour de cette chère planète.
    Nous recherchons l’échange, l’enrichissement au contact des autres, mais rien n’est toujours aussi simple que ce que l’on pourrait croire de prime abord. En tout cas, ton billet le montre bien… Il est écrit avec beaucoup d’humour et de délicatesse, je l’apprécie beaucoup !

  • Love this post! Fortunately for me, I don’t live in a place where people vacation or travel to (because who in their right mind would go to Ohio for vacation?), so I don’t have to deal with tourists very often. However, I still feel uncomfortable on behalf of these “tourists” whenever I travel. I do my best not to walk too slowly, especially in big cities, and try to find where the people who WORK at the tourist joints go for dinner/drinks/fun – those are always the best places to be if you’re looking for a good local experience. :-) I hate seeing people with their fanny-packs, maps, and aloof behavior aimlessly wandering around amazing cities like Paris in search of a Hard Rock Cafe. It ruins the fun for me too…someone who just wants to see a beautiful city as it should be.

    I would love to travel more, and I always love hearing good advice from people who have traveled a lot more than me. Thanks for the amazing perspective, Garance!

  • Hmmm. On one hand, I can’t relate to tourists who take pictures of every statue etc, or who pose in front of the Eiffel Tower (although the tower is lovely, to be sure).

    But on the other hand, the forms of travel that I practice – visiting great restaurants, bars, and cafés, walking through intriguing neighbourhoods, talking with locals in shops or public spaces, spending time on the beach or in the mountains or reading a book in a park – is still very much a kind of tourism. Even if I have contacts in the area, even if I’m staying in someone’s apartment, even if I’m familiar with the culture or the language.

    I’m learning to be ok with myself as a respectful, informed tourist instead of claiming some other status. It’s good to want to experience other places and other ways of living. But, as you say Garance, not everyone in the world has the time and means with which to travel ‘just to see,’ and I always try not to let my curiosity turn into crass voyeurism.

    P.S. I do try to model my behaviour after citizens…but I’m pretty sure everyone sees through me, anyway. The global citizen thing strikes me as a bit too precious, and two other ‘p’ words that I dare not name!

  • Ha ha c’est tellement ça, on adore voyager mais sans les autres voyageurs! Et tout à fait d’accord sur le marchandage, je suis plutôt pour aider les locaux dans les pays pauvres quitte à me faire avoir un peu, alors que les quelques centimes voire dollars en moins ne changent rien pour nous, touristes privilégiés!
    Mais dis-nous Garance, comment tu restes élégante sur des sites touristiques où on ne coupe pas aux baskets? Aujourd’hui je suis en route pour Yosemite et en uniforme short et chemise en jean comme sur ton dessin!

  • Intéressant post.

  • J’adore l’illustration, elle est superbe! Pour ce qui est du tourisme je n’ai pas trop d’expérience, je l’ai plus souvent pratiqué en France mais je pense qu’on voit les choses différemment lorsqu’on grandit et les voyages sont des expériences de la vie vraiment enrichissantes.

  • Great read! I love being a tourist!

  • flanellerouge August, 5 2013, 1:14 / Reply

    Tu es trop classe Garance ! Lucide, surtout !
    Un exemple de respect des locaux, que j’appliquais inconsciemment dans les 70′ quand je voyageais avec le minimum vital, en Californie, au Mexique, en Grèce, au Maroc et à Bali justement, en mode stop ou transports locaux, dormir sur la plage, chez l’habitant où dans les losemen à Bali, 10F pour 2, mon futur ex et moi :
    – une robe longue en coton, bien plus confortable qu’un pantalon – pas question de short !!! C’est OK du matin à la nuit, quelques soient les rencontres en route.
    – les cheveux propres, même avec une douche froide
    – sandales plates en cuir, que c’était une galère à trouver !!! pensée émue pour mes Carel (une fortune !), les KJacques n’existaient pas…

  • OK, so I recently travelled to Japan, and this is how I felt: no matter how hard I tried to respect local customs (including simple things like how to occupy public space), I failed.

    I look different, I don’t speak the language, and I’m a bit clumsy…never as graceful and tidy as Japanese women.

    Then I would see gross European and American tourists with their gigantic backpacks and flip-flops (and even with those giant fuzzy slippers), refusing to take off their shoes and other horrifying things…and it would add to my sense of shame.

    I felt shame to be a tourist (or ‘traveller,’ but really what’s the difference except aesthetics and social class?) at all, because what else was I doing but gratifying my desire to consume difference in some way? Cultural, environmental, whatever.

    I tend to think myself above those who talk loudly on the metro and disturb the tranquility of commuters, or who don’t know anything about the food, but think they do…and even those who are childishly in search of the ‘authentic,’ of ‘local colour’ etc – but am I really any better? Travelling involves coming to terms with these things, and I appreciate your post about such a complex topic.


    I’m Japanese and living in Canada right now.

    OK, so I recently travelled to Japan, and this is how I felt: no matter how hard I tried to respect local customs (including simple things like how to occupy public space), I failed.

    >Hey you didn’t. We all love to meet people from all over the world. I’m sorry if you felt uncomfortable, but I’m sure all Japanese wanted to get along with you. We are too shy sometimes.

    I look different, I don’t speak the language, and I’m a bit clumsy…never as graceful and tidy as Japanese women.

    >Same here. Most of Japanese want to talk to foreigners : ) We love to speak English and know your culture. Maybe you want to know some easy Japanese like ” Konnichiwa (Hello)” “Arigatou(Thank you)”

    Then I would see gross European and American tourists with their gigantic backpacks and flip-flops (and even with those giant fuzzy slippers), refusing to take off their shoes and other horrifying things…and it would add to my sense of shame.

    >I totally understand your feeling. Please do not feel bad. That’s not your fault. Also we understand everyone have own culture. We don’t want you to force our Japanese culture. Especially taking your shoes off is sometimes annoying, isn’t it : ) I know. We don’t mind. You can say ” No” to us anytime.

    I felt shame to be a tourist (or ‘traveller,’ but really what’s the difference except aesthetics and social class?) at all, because what else was I doing but gratifying my desire to consume difference in some way? Cultural, environmental, whatever.

    > You are so sweet and nice person. Please don’t feel shame to be a tourist. We always appreciate your visit and want you to feel comfortable. Personally when I see the tourists in Japan, I feel so happy! Because they came here to get to know us. How wonderful is that!

    I tend to think myself above those who talk loudly on the metro and disturb the tranquility of commuters, or who don’t know anything about the food, but think they do…and even those who are childishly in search of the ‘authentic,’ of ‘local colour’ etc – but am I really any better? Travelling involves coming to terms with these things, and I appreciate your post about such a complex topic.

    > Thank you so much for visiting Japan. I hope you will come back here in Japan again soon : ) I’m sure you are going to have a fantastic time.

  • This is the second blog post about travel and tourism I’ve read this morning. Must be something in the air. Myself, I make no bones about it. Unless, it’s business–when I travel I consider myself a tourist. I love being a tourist, and I like other tourists as well. When I go to Paris I visit the Eiffel tower just to see the tourists! Look how happy they are! This is a lifetime experience for most of them. Nearly every country in the world is represented. It touches me. How could it be annoying? Of course, I do other things as well when I’m in Paris; I’m all over the place. But I’m not one of those pretentious types who think that because they saw the Canal St. Martin instead of the Eiffel Tower, they’re somehow in the know or had the local experience. That’s just silly.

    ps I do have one pet peeve: cruise ships. Don’t get me started there.

  • Anonymous August, 6 2013, 8:18

    Bravo, Peter.

  • Un mot d’ordre pour mon mari et moi en voyage : ne pas se faire remarquer, sortir des grands axes touristiques et lorsque l’on veut visiter le Coliseum par exemple, y aller des l’ouverture. En fait, faire tout a l’envers des “touristes.”

  • Discrétion et…tact! deux qualités qui se font rares en voyage!

  • Aline.a August, 5 2013, 2:15 / Reply

    Les touristes les plus détesté à l’étranger sont les français ??
    Et en France les parisiens ??
    En corse les corses du continent ??

  • Camille August, 5 2013, 2:16 / Reply

    I probably shouldnt be commenting, but i havent traveled like I envision myself travelling for fear of being criticized as that tourist and for lack of money. I would rather be an annoying tourist and see the places I’ve only dreamed of rather than NEVER travelling at all. We live and learn right?

  • Great write up! I’ve always struggled w/ the blurred lines between seeing a country through the typical tourist’s footsteps and actually straying off the beaten path.

    I went to France for the first time, and although we saw all the remarkable landmarks and attraction, we tried to experience them differently.

    If you have any suggestions for when we go back on your favorite restaurants in Nice/Paris, would love to know thanks so much!

  • Léonore August, 5 2013, 3:16 / Reply

    The problem is too many people think travelling means that they have to visit as many countries as they can in a short amount of time – otherwise they feel they haven’t done anything with their life. That shouldn’t be called travelling.
    I think real travelling is chosing to go and LIVE in a place for a long time and really understand the place – be able to think how people think there. Having to work just like them and earn the same as they earn. Eat the same as they eat. Be hurt just as they are hurt when their government steals their resources. And it doesn’t matter if it is only once in a lifetime. Because this is the only way to get a real perspective and learn humility.
    I think one should always go “abroad” with the idea of doing something. Not just seeing.

  • Katarzyna August, 6 2013, 7:02

    Amen! ;)

  • Quel bel article… Drôle, touchant, engagé. Je te lis depuis des années, et c’est vraiment ces articles là que je préfère !
    Comme tu le dis bien, il faut trouver le juste équilibre entre s’ouvrir aux autres et ne peut être intrusif, irrespectueux. Pour cela, j’essaie toujours de me renseigner sur les locaux avant de partir, et lorsque j’ai envie de les prendre en photo, je ne demande pas toujours. Je préfère saisir leur image au naturel, et les informer après, contre une petite pièce ou un envoi par mail…

  • A hilarious, beautiful and true story. All in one, I love it. Thank you. xx

  • Haha! True that French people always have something against tourists… FRance is beautiful and invaded every summer, no wonder! :-D

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  • being a tourist is never good.. :D

  • It is quite fun, because I grew up here in Spain, but I have been living in Germany for years now, and every time I come back here for holiday, or to visit family and friends, I do not feel like a tourist, and it is like home. I find myself helping tourists when I see they look for something the locals really would do, or something not ment for tourists.

    Jana H.

  • Je n’ai rien contre les touristes en soi mais je m’insurge tous les jours contre les gens qui arrivent ici avec leurs petits sourires en coin tout ce qu’il y a de plus condescendants et qui s’imaginent qu’ils débarquent chez de gentils ploucs vaguement bûcherons trop touchants qui vivent perdus dans des cabanes en bois ronds et qui tentent désespérément de balbutier le français et qui apparemment n’auraient aucune culture (je rappelle ici que Montréal est la 2e plus grande métropole culturelle dans le monde francophone après Paris) et aucun art de vivre et qu’il faut surtout aller à la rencontre de chouettes personnages authentiques soient de poilus mecs hirsutes et un peu simplets avec un regard lointain et naïf car ils représenteraient la vraie faune locale… Fin de ma montée de lait…

  • This is such great advice. The city I live (Chicago) gets super crowded this time of year, with tourists from all walks of life cramming onto the streets staring at skyscrapers, and sometimes I find myself with that snobbish attitude of thinking why they can’t walk faster, or why they have to yell, or stop every few feet to take a picture.

    But then I realized, as you did, that if we are lucky we will find ourselves in their shoes someday, and all we can do is try to be tolerant, and understand that everyone is continually learning how to be a traveler.

  • “Tourism is generally cahracterized by the shame of being a tourist” -can’t remember where I read that quote but it feels so spot on!

  • Very funny and true.

    I don’t like to travel much for that reason…it feels icky. But when I do I am sure to learn how to say “Please” and “thank-you” perfectly in the language I need. For the rest…I usually just make a sad face and I suppose the locals feel a bit of pity. People have always been lovely…

    It also helps to eat EVERYTHING! I’ve been a a few restaurants where they try to slip something they assume you won’t like (think grasshoppers, or tongue, or blood sausage, or really strong cheese…) the ability to really LOVE eating anything has won my husband and I many friendly, gracious and generous local experiences.

  • Roxanne August, 5 2013, 8:33 / Reply

    Super texte ! C’est vrai ce que tu dis. Je dois dire que les touristes, il y en a dans mon coin et quand ça se promène super lentement et tout, oui, ça tombe sur les nerfs. C’est pour ça que quand je vais dans des endroits qui ressemblent à mon chez moi, j’essaye de ne pas faire ça. Mais, je pense que quand on se rend dans un pays totalement différent du notre, il est important de s’adapter à la culture et aux coutumes locales. De tenir compte de la réalité des gens qui y vivent. :) Bref. Très bon article ! :)

  • I always find the best travel times for me is when I visit someone who lives in the country/city and they show me around.
    I’m in Bali atm with staying with my ex pat friend and its been one of the best trips I’ve ever had!

  • I’ve always hated being a tourist. I don’t like going to the tourist spots and sightseeing, I’d rather just walk around and see what happens (if it’s safe to do so). I have to admit I hate tourists in my city but I try to be helpful and polite because I’d like the locals to treat me the same way when I’m abroad. Thanks for posting this, I learnt a lot about how to be a better tourist :)

  • je suis complètement d’accord avec toi garance :)
    l’illustration est géniale , des airs de charlotte gainsbourg??

  • Garance :)

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time and it is posts like this that bring me back.

    I live in Key West, born and raised and I am a concierge and my family was way up on the beginning crest of tourism here. I love your blog but am certainly not “chic” or fashionable at all. The opportunities to dress up are rare and your blog, and Scott’s are a great way to dream.

    I become infuriated when people trash tourists because whether you are a local, or tourist or transplant we are all human beings. WHENEVER you travel you ARE a tourist and people tend to forget that. Great post, Thank You!

  • Wonderful that you put those principles out there, they’re great. Especially the part about not bargaining too much and not caring what anyone thinks about that. You have a lovely sensitivity mixed with realism. Going to Bali (again) in two weeks – can’t wait!

  • Garance, thank you for this post.

  • haha garance.

  • I am living as a tourist (is that possible?) We have moved to Singapore and I don’t want to feel a newbie but that I know what I’m doing – ha! As if!

    And I would add to the wise words above – please, thank you and excuse me are understood the world over and yet so many people seem to leave them at home and not take them on vacation with them…..

  • Fabienne August, 6 2013, 1:42 / Reply

    Regarde une série d’émissions diffusées l’an dernier et cet été en France : “Nus et Culotes” avec Nans et Mouts. Deux jeunes qui partent nus et sans argent, ils vont, grâce au troc et à la générosité des personnes rencontrées, trouver des vêtements, de la nourriture, un logement, et des moyens pour se déplacer (vélo, avions, bateau) afin d’atteindre leur objectif de voyage. Concept intéressant.

  • This is such a great post! I’m an American living in Paris and I have been traveling in Europe quite a lot this summer. I’ve come to realize how many people are ‘bad’ tourists. (and no, they are not all American!) I have seen so many rude people who treat locals in unkind ways. I think that people should treat traveling like a visit to their grandparents. They should be extra polite and use please and thank you a lot. Good manners go a long way! They might be surprised by how much their experiences change for the better.

  • Le Fiancé du Pirate August, 6 2013, 3:38 / Reply

    On ne saurait mieux dire! ;)

  • Superbe article Garance !
    sans doute un des plus intéressants pour moi qui suis passionnée de voyages !

    j’ai pu prendre conscience de plein de choses en te lisant et en un instant, tu m’as transportée à Cuba, au Mexique et en Thaïlande en ravivant certains souvenirs…

    j’avoue, je me suis souvent comportée comme une “touriste”, cherchant à marchander un sac à 5$ (je sais, j’ai honte…), à bouger le nez en permanence dans le Routard ou le Lonely Planet, etc.
    mais ces dernières années je me suis transformée en voyageuse roots, troquant UCPA et Club Med contre guesthouses et auberges de jeunesses locales.
    j’ai aussi changé mes destinations… plus d’authenticité et moins de bling-bling, plus Mexique qu’Ibiza

    en tout cas, ton article m’a fait ouvrir encore plus les yeux sur certaines réalités que nous, globe-trotters, faisons mine d’ignorer…

    merci Garance ! :)



  • Très bien résumé….c’est hyper complexe cette histoire, on en parlait hier….cette année j’ai délaissé la Corse pour les Pouilles en Italie, et le choc fut rude à l’arrivée !!! et j’ai essayé de comprendre pourquoi ça faisait le buzz en ce moment (bon nous nous sommes là avec des amis italiens)(j’adore il faut toujours que tu te justifies en tant que touriste, genre je ne suis pas comme les autres !!!)(bah si poulette tu es exactement pareil !), et la réponse est que depuis quelques temps ils ont construit de grands complexes hyper luxueux dans lesquels tout ces bobos se retrouvent et dont ils ne sortent pas ! Finalement qu’ils soient ici ou ailleurs c’est la même chose !!!

  • Très joli billet! Il résume bien au fond, ce que nous pensons tous, nous, touristes!

  • The Tourist French Syndrome: pretending to be different, original, the only one visitng here… with le guide du routard sous la main! Le truc: Lonely planet! As a French expat living in India, I can relate to all what you say! Experiences of being cheated often, of bargaining as a game (it has its own rules!) but not too much, of seing other French cheap grandes gueules around trying to be original, etc. As for me, travelling often alone, the trick that I found always works (except with bloody Cashemiris shopkeepers in India!!!) is a smile (as sincere as possible). Also, basic respect for locals and remembering that people working with tourism are here to make money (don´t excpect everything for free but get a good deal). Finally, leaving egocentrism/self-centredness behind and being in the present moment whith every senses open!

  • I love this post so much especially since I’m living in a developing country right now. There are totally those “world travellers” who dread their hair and try to look the part too much. Or those who haggle even when the exchange rate between my country and their’s causes no kind of detriment to their wallet (there was even a time when a tourist tried to lower a souvenir to less than a dollar. Surely they could’ve afforded it!). For me, the thing that’s the most annoying is that sure, we’re (tourists and locals) all in an island country filled with people who live the “‘island life.” But even though it’s humid and it’s hot and unbearably sticky because of it we don’t go into respectable places wearing things that are almost akin to rags or go into restaurants shirtless. It’s just rude and I don’t understand why they do it nor can I see any reason to.

    But I have been a tourist. While I don’t think I’ve ever been disrespectful, I have my fair share of Lonely Planet moments!

  • Enjoyed reading your insight on being a tourist and travel especially the fact that you summarise your experience with the good advise to remain humble, get a guide and consider how it is for the locals, how they are living and be respectful. All good stuff.

  • I live in small town near Venice on the beach and I every summer we are invaded by tourists, that’s why I retreat myself in countryside (all the tourist like only the beach).

    I know that in Italy there’s crisis so tourism are one of the most important source of incoming but tourist should not take advantage of this. I mean, if a shop closed at 11pm why you decide get in at 22.55 and stay in ’till 23.30? If the price 20 euro in sale, why you want an extra discount?

    I know that Russian or Chineses aren’t welcoming as us in Italy but if someone tells me “hello” I reply “hello” and I think that this is an universal rule!

    When I travel I hate being a tourist too (I feel ashamed even to take pictures!), I love to talk with locals (I always had great conversations with taxi drivers) and above all, I try to speak their language or at least in english (have you ever heard a Russian speaking english???)

  • Merci pour ce billet rigolo et plein de sens. Quand je pars en voyage, je déteste me retrouver avec d’autres touristes- et si j’achète un guide, je cache bien au fond de ma valise, chut ! J’ai appelé cette façon de voyager le NoTourism®

  • Skylark August, 6 2013, 7:40 / Reply

    Oh dear. Every time I’m about to wean myself off this blog because it’s just too superficial to be that concerned with looks and fashion, you pull a stunt like this and I’m right back in.

    Thank you for being eclectic and showing us the other side of the coin sometimes :-)

    Lots of love
    on a sunny afternoon in Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Joli billet et surtout sincère , j’ai du aussi avoir à peu près ce type de reflexions au cours de mes voyages …
    Pas facile d’essayer d’avoir la bonne attitude , je crois que c’est une question d’habitude , savoir quand on peut faire confiance aux locaux , les faire travailler et les aider et quand il faut faire attention aux arnaques …

  • Anonymous August, 6 2013, 8:17 / Reply

    Wow, what a great post. Thank you, G. I love your honesty. All of us who travel began as novices, no? I made gaffs. I took picture after picture of every statue and monument. I was ignorant of customs. I’m sure I asked for things aloofly and without regard to respecting local custom. And eventually I learned to become a more thoughtful tourist. It took time and A LOT of trips to understand that I was a blip in an otherwise global world. When I see people doing what I did (not realizing things are so different outside of their home town or country) I don’t pity them. I’m not smug or annoyed. I remember being there and then I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to go back, travel more, learn more, respect more. I love helping a tourist in my city. And like someone else said, love it when I’m asked for directions when I’m abroad! I’ll never blend in; all I can do is be as respectful as possible and not judge my fellow tourists. I always overdress when I travel. And smile and be pleasant to the restaurateurs and shopkeepers who are often weary. I’m so lucky to be able to travel. What a privilege.

    Oh. And I still walk around with a guidebook. It’s not my city. I won’t apologize for that. But after reading all of this, I will seek out local guides. Great idea!

  • Stephanie August, 6 2013, 8:41 / Reply

    I’ve travelled for many years and have accepted that I am always going to be a tourist! Even though I have been to Italy more than twenty times and speak the language, I am not a local. That said, I simply try to be a respectful visitor. I try to dress in a modest/elegant way that would be appropriate were I an Italian, try to follow local customs, etc. I am always shocked by the tourists who speak very loudly in the streets, sometimes with a bottle of wine in hand, especially at night. I spend a lot of time in Florence and the average tourist, and especially the young foreign students, seem to have absolutely no concept of the fact that Florence is a city with living residents, trying to go to sleep and work, etc., and not their very own Renaissance playground!

  • Wonderful post, Garance. I have struggled with many of the same issues. Just yesterday I found myself writing a post about the state of tourism as well, and the tours I offer in Paris to help them make the most about their experience:

  • Wonderful post – I often have the same dilemma.
    Priscilla Joy

  • Très bien trouvé cette idée de Notourism! Thanks Claire & GD

  • Veronica August, 6 2013, 12:50 / Reply

    When I was a ‘world traveller’ in Bali when I was younger, a French woman we met explained to a waiter that it cost roughly a month’s wages to fly from Europe to Indonesia. He replied: ‘I could probably save a month’s wages if I worked very hard. But I would still not be able to afford the flight, and anyway, my currency wouldn’t last five minutes in your country.’ I’ve never forgotten his words, and hope I’ve travelled respectfully since.

  • Great article. Being from Boston I do my fair share of walking the line between local and tourist. I also travel to Brazil often and walk the line between traveler and tourist. Great perspectives on all 3!

  • I totally get this! I had a similar experience when I went to Mexico recently. It was my first time, and I went for my honeymoon, so we stayed at an all-inclusive in Tulum. What a beautiful place! So much history! So much nature! One of the best things we did was a guided trip to Coba and a Mayan village. Everything was wonderful until near the end. My husband bought some of the local honey in the village, but it was the last 2 bottles, so of course everyone else in our group wanted their own. We stopped at another village on the way back to get some, but they only accepted pesos, so my husband played exchange bank and let people trade dollars for his. So far so good, we were happy to pay for the local honey, and pleased we could contribute so directly to their economy. And then one of the other tourists (another American woman, who, interestingly, was Latina but didn’t speak Spanish), started getting friendly with the kids, and asked them to sing songs for her, for which they gave them a dollar each. The look on the mom’s face when she saw that changed from delight by the unexpected visit and patronage, to cautiously smiling annoyance when she saw her children pretty much exploited for a currency she couldn’t use. I could almost here the “damn tourists” comments in her mind! Even the guide, who is from the area, wasn’t especially approving. Coming from the service industry myself, I understand why they didn’t say anything, but I also understood how they must feel. They are very proud people, like anyone else, and happy to trade their goods and services for a decent price, but it was very boorish of the woman to treat those kids like dancing monkeys. My husband and I just kind of slumped down in the van, waiting for it to move on.

    PS, if you get the chance to try Mayan honey, you absolutely must!! It’s so light and runny, and it’s made from special bees that only live in that area.

  • Katarzyna August, 6 2013, 3:49 / Reply

    This post keeps me coming back … :)
    I’d just like to recomend a book The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, it speaks a lot to me.

    Sneek peek:

    “The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”

  • You really captured my early 20’s pretentiousness with your 1st tourist example. Nothing made me feel more “right” than being outraged. :)

    I go back and forth with my feelings towards tourists and being a tourist myself. When I travel, I want to “live like a local” as much as possible… but, but, but, there is nothing that matches the wonder that a tourist feels when they happen upon a site that moves them and that they have never experienced before. As a tourist, you’re open, you’re excited, you’re more apt to be dazzled, and I love that feeling. So yes, when I travel, I want to dine at the same place locals do, I want to be a “cool” visitor that any local would welcome, but I reserve the right to be a dorky tourist and be “wowed” by the same beautiful view or amazing building that locals might think is kind of “meh.” I feel like if I “own” my tourist label, I’m giving myself permission to be unabashedly excited about stuff. And sometimes that feeling of wonder that tourists have is infectious. A few months ago I went to a concert at Masonic Center in Nob Hill in SF. After huffing and puffing up that merciless hill, I was met with packs of tourists visiting Grace Cathedral and hanging out in Huntington Park. It was sunset and everywhere I looked I saw a tourists blocking the sidewalk, the streets, taking up space with their bulky cameras… and I loved it. Because they were all mesmerized by what they were seeing. That feeling of wonder totally got under my skin and I felt a new appreciation for this city, and I felt kind of honored that I got to experience it with them.

  • This is so thought-provoking! I’m 21, and definitely find myself thinking similarly to your view at 18. I love travel, and I don’t want to only do the standard tourist stuff, and would rather get off the beaten path. I find going to hostels works both ways. Staff are really friendly and eager to help, and you make international friendships with other travellers there!

  • Anika Zebron August, 6 2013, 6:32 / Reply

    Your thought evolution was dead on. Oh the days of blissful, but most ignorant youth! But, I’m realizing that no matter how “old” we are, it’s all to easy to fall into traveler ego-centricism (what? It’s NOT all about me? What are you talking about??). Even if we don’t mean to. Great tips at the end and a fun read! Thanks, Garance. :)

  • Comment demander aux autres ce que nous ne pouvons donner? Comment demander d’être accepté en quelques jours alors que nous serions incapables de le faire…?
    J’ai passé 15 jours en Inde, 15 autres au Maroc, et à chaque fois je me suis sentie comme un gros porte monnaie… J’ai été déçue de ne pas avoir pu connaître mieux les habitants de ces pays puis j’ai compris qu’il aurait sûrement fallu que je reste plusieurs mois… Puis je suis partie une semaine à San Francisco et j’ai eu l’impression de mieux connaître ses habitants car on avait la même culture mais là aussi c’était un leurre, comment pouvais-je prétendre les connaître en une semaine?

    En tout cas bravo pour cet article !

  • I like that you said “humbling,” for that is also my experience whenever I travel.

  • Yes! I always thought I was the only one! I dont like feeling and looking touristy and I am not a fan when people are so touristy when they visit LA. I actually always wonder what everyone’s impressions are whether they are out of state or international. The only thing that bothers me just a little are the tourist drivers. I love the tips on traveling at the end, I also find if you know someone at your destination it makes it so much more interesting and you really get to feel and do what the locals do on the daily.


  • As usual a totally honest post that we can all relate to! And it’s very true what you have pointed out about how thoughts on travel change with age, perhaps like many other points of view! But I do personally relate to those feelings of guilt when travelling in another country about the footprint we are leaving, and wanting to be the cool traveller, being annoyed by tourists (arrogantly thinking I’m not one, in whatever form). But these days I pretty much travel to see somewhere different to where I live, and to enjoy what another culture has to offer, being mindful not to disrespect the locals with my behaviour. In the end travel and the experience of travel is such a subjective thing but in the end, surely we were born to travel and explore this little world??

  • Une façon de voyager que j’apprécie vraiment, c’est de partir pour le boulot. Dans mon cas, je vais régulièrement au Bénin. C’est une façon fabuleuse de découvrir un pays parce qu’on travaille avec ses partenaires, on découvre le pays du quotidien, les relations sont saines puisque professionnelles. Résultats après 4 ans: j’adore ce pays, j’ai envie de le faire découvrir à plein de gens autour de moi… Mais personne n’est vraiment intéressé! Et oui, ce pays est inconnu, il n’a pas développé de produits d’appel tels que le Kenya, l’Afrique du Sud et tant d’autres pays africains. Mais bon, les voyages professionnels, je pense que tu connais parfaitement bien! :)

  • Hello Garance, I just read your interview on BBC? Forms of identification..Thank you for sharing your so personal experience!
    Which book of J. M. G. Le Clézio you refereed to when you said he changed your perception of the travel?

  • Thank you for this posts! Especially the part “Grande voyageuse”. You wrote exactly what I am experiencing in a student or alternative lifestyle environment and is really getting on my nerves. For example the rush of everyone getting to Myanmar before it becomes the new Thailand… And I really like your traveling guidelines!

  • Elizabeth August, 7 2013, 7:31 / Reply

    I remember being on my way to one of my final exams with another student. We were both nervous & were shocked to be stopped by American tourists who wanted to take our picture (at Oxford you have to wear academic dress for exams) as though we were dressed up for their convenience. They were quite rude when we explained that we were on our way to important exams.

    I live in London now & I see everything from wonderful visitors to really bad ambassadors for their countries. I always try to help with directions etc because I want people to think well of my city but really noisy, thoughtless, complaining people are hard to bear.

    I have become very cautious about travelling, especially to developing countries for all the reasons given above. It is a fine balance between providing income & being exploitative

  • Great post! I love to be a tourist, though. But a polite one. I think it all comes down to that. I love seeing things for the first time, it makes me feel like a child and well, sometimes touristic places are touristic because they are beautiful! Don’t get me wrong, I usually hate people (don’t get me started on cruises and how are they destroying Venice) and I want to be original so I hate when some place is crowded and I look for hidden gems (so that I can brag about that later, truth to be told) but I know I’m a tourist when I travel. Proud and loud!
    It’s funny because in fashion it’s ok if you wear the same bag as 1000 other girls. In fact, if you don’t, your coolness gets lost inside some Zara bag, but when travelling you’d better choose the weirdest destination if you want to be cool, huh?

  • I like that this piece touches on globalisation, power and privilege in a lighthearted way. The sentence about latitude resonated with me deeply. If anyone wishes to learn more, I’d suggest a few readings by Jamaica Kincaid. These conversations definitely need to be had. Love!

  • Coucou Garance,

    Comme souvent super article, plein d’intelligence et d’humilité, bon et maintenant quand est-ce que tu vas faire la touriste en Algérie? Je suis sûre que tu as dû te demander à quoi ça ressemblait en vrai, je suis sûre que tu apprécieras la chaleur et l’authenticité des gens, un peu comme en Corse quoi ;), je serai ravie de faire la guide :)

  • Michele August, 7 2013, 1:03 / Reply

    Haha! Good article Garance! Yeah, I’ve been a traveler too and fought like hell over a rickshaw price trying to get the “local price”. I too ended up feeling a bit ashamed of my behavior, but I’ve learned basically the same as you – be respectful, mind the culture, and be friendly, not cheap. You are expected to bargain in markets in most non-western countries, but know that you’ll never get the “local price”, nor should you. Pay a fair price. Go along with the game a little, drink the cup of tea, then buy if you want. One thing I like to do is take a picture, with permission, with the seller or of the shop, because shopping can be such an experience!

    If you do make friends on the road, look carefully at their situation and be generous for their hospitality. Don’t make them ask for something, offer either a little money or some assistance with something they need. Because you can! That’s why.

  • What a terrific, and well thought out post. I am so happy that you shared your empathetic perspective on travel from many perspectives.

  • heee mais je ne jure QUE par le routard moi!!! C’est le meilleur bouquin du monde, ça et tripadvisor! (bon je sais rien à voir avec le message principal de l’article)

  • How to avoid tourists:
    1) Go off season
    2) Get a personal guide and driver and not a tour group
    3) Eat where the locals eat (ask your taxi driver). Don’t eat in any restaurant in a guide book, unless it is special in some way.

    If you can’t do any of the above, think positively – tourists bring a tremendous amount of money and jobs to a country.

  • You could learn a lot by having to pay attention to debates going
    on around you. Pack a lunch and head to Strawberry Fields
    in Central Park (sure, the park is named following the tune).
    Flip the card to the correct so it is encounter up.

  • I was raised in the Caribbean and the tourists weren’t soooo bad. My island never felt over run with foreigners. My only complaint would be that they don’t think when it comes to safety. Don’t pull out a large amount of money in the street. You attract thieves when you do that dumb shit. I understand the need to explore and “go off the beaten path” but certain areas are dangerous and if I as a local wouldn’t go there why would you as a foreigner do that. As a tourist I love a guide book I know it makes look like a major dork but I don’t care. Those books give good advice when comes to what is ok and not ok. I don’t want to be the ignorant foreigner.

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