Hello, my name is Tiina and I’m a Bad Tourist…
I’ve been to London / Paris / Barcelona / New York etc several times. Yet, the list of ‘must-see’ tourists attractions that I have never seen is impressive: the London Eye, the Shard, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sagrada Familia, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty…
And I have no plans to visit any of them any time soon, or ever.
Why? Because jockeying for prime position with other tourists is my idea of hell.
Call me lazy if you want, but I don’t queue for anything, whether it’s Mona Lisa or summer sales. Life’s just too short for that. I’d rather peruse local antique markets or small galleries. Yes, I know you can book tickets in advance, and if there is an interesting exhibition I might do that. But usually I don’t like to plan too much in advance. A holiday is the time to ditch the ‘to do’ list, not add to it.
But why do I call myself a Bad Tourist?
I seldom plan my trips in advance; I often ‘do my research’ on the plane, that is if I manage to find a guidebook at the airport…
I don’t really have the wanderlust, either; I have no burning desire to see new, exotic places. In fact, I seem to have a seasonal ‘migrating pattern’ that takes me at regular intervals to places I already know quite well.
Now, I’m not saying that I dislike travelling. It’s just something I do, like some people drive a car (I don’t) or sail (ditto). I’m not even sure if should call what I do travelling… Let’s just say that I have been living out of a suitcase and / or flying around most of my life.
|Daegu, South Korea|
But let’s start at the beginning…
Once upon a time there was a little girl who used to take the plane all by herself… Actually, it was the 1970s and it wasn’t very common for children to travel unaccompanied. Yet, there I was taking the plane to go see my father, a few times a year. My mother took me to the airport, handed me over to a friendly and slightly nervous flight attendant (air travel was so much less complicated back then…) who escorted me to the plane and then handed me over to my father after we landed. It was really exciting for a little girl to be travelling alone, except for the name tag the flight attendants put around my neck. Now, that was humiliating… I mean, what am I, a piece of luggage?!? I’m a frequent traveller, a woman of the world, I’m almost ten!!!
And of course there was the time when my always calm and composed mother would accuse my father of ‘losing her child’ when he was due to ship me back the same way… He had failed to mention that it was not a direct flight, and that I was safely stowed away in the flight attendants’ break room while I waited to board my connecting flight. What neither of my parents knew was that there was a frantic flight attendant running around the airport looking for a little wannabe globetrotter who had had enough of being treated as cabin luggage and had wandered off to do some ‘taxfree’ shopping (= buy chocolate)…
Fast forward to today: I’m one half of a multicultural (three languages, two countries) couple commuting between our two homes every week. This means that I take the plane to either Gatwick or Heathrow (depending on the airline) at least once a month (and my husband, Professor M, does the commuting when I don’t). The excitement I felt as a little girl is long gone; these days I find air travel frustrating and boring, a bit like taking a bus that is crowded and stuck in a traffic jam…
To make life easier, I have streamlined the whole process of getting from Homebase 1 to Homebase 2 with the least amount of hassle, with or without luggage. I check in online, book the same seat whenever possible and pack anything I might need during the flight so that I can find it easily. Commuting between Britain and Finland has become routine. So much so that I operate on autopilot: arrive 30 minutes before boarding, head straight to security control, then to e-passport gates, stop to pick up a bottle of water and a magazine, gate 37…. Last winter I was on my way to Copenhagen for a weekend trip, and I was about to hoist my cabin luggage onto the conveyor belt at security control when I suddenly realised that not only was I heading to the wrong gate, but I was in the wrong terminal…
|Daegu, South Korea|
What about holiday trips?
There are two types of holidays Professor M and I take together: a long weekend / a few days’ city break, usually in a place we already know, and a work-related trip (for him) followed by a weekend somewhere further away.
The first type of holiday is a break from our complicated and hectic lives (e.g. I have two homes in two countries, 5-7 employers, and a job that keeps me running from one place to another). Therefore,we have high demands for the hotel (good location and amenities, preferably with breakfast), but there is no itinerary or schedule and very little advance planning as far as activities are concerned. We don’t go sightseeing, unless you count wandering around more or less aimlessly as that… And while we both hate ‘touristy’ activities, we might take a boat cruise or and excursion if the mood strikes us. We aim to go to one museum or an exhibition per trip, but only if we happen to come across something that interests us (and usually it is a small gallery with local artists’ work that we end up going to). The point is, we don’t plan ahead. Still, even after ten years of going to Barcelona once a year, we always manage to find new areas to explore. And maybe one day we get to see Sagrada Familia, too (provided there is no queue outside…).
|Daegu, South Korea|
The second type of trip is a bit more stressful. Obviously, Professor M is attending a conference whereas I’m on holiday (and quite capable of entertaining myself in a strange, new place) … I hardly see him, except in the evenings, and then we might have different plans: after being cooped up indoors the entire day, he is dying to go out, whereas all I want after a day in sweltering sunshine is a bath and room service… This type of ‘holiday’ only makes sense once we get to the after work weekend part and can have a day or two to revisit the places I saw while he was working.
What’s you preferred way of travelling? And do you distinguish between holiday trips and other trips?
Coming soon to an airport near you…