Embracing My Inner Tourist

Written by Elizabeth October 15, 2015

Caught (candidly) admiring the Castelvecchio Bridge in Verona

Unmistakably American!

Shamelessly posing in the Botticelli gallery

I'm not the only one stopping to take photos!

Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" at the Uffizi

The incredible view from Castel San Pietro

“Is there such a thing as a traveler’s high?” is a question that popped out of my mouth as we were wandering around Florence last weekend. While the more technical term may be “wanderlust” (definition: a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering), I know for certain that there is a rush of adrenaline that comes along with exploring a new city in a foreign country. When everything around you is new and exciting, it’s hard not to feel awestruck at how you managed to land in such a beautiful place.
Being a tourist is a privilege; it’s not something that everyone has the opportunity to do. From my first two weekends of traveling, I learned quite a few things about what it means to be an international tourist. When fourteen of us arrived in Florence last weekend, there was no mistaking us for anything other than Americans as we walked in a long snake line toward the hostel with our backpacks in tow. And yet, we couldn’t keep ourselves from pointing at the sights, taking photos, and acting like total tourists.
Safety, of course, is the number one priority when you’re in a strange city, but that shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying the sights that surround you. I’m so paranoid about losing my passport that I had a dream the other night about being pick-pocketed in Verona, but there are also times when I just take in the moment and savor my tourist status. I regularly check my CityMaps2Go app, I shamelessly pose in front of monuments to take pictures for my mom, and I horribly mispronounce all kinds of words when interacting with the locals. It’s okay to be a tourist. After all, who knows when the next opportunity to spend a weekend in Florence will be?
Being in a city with such a large group of students taught me a lot about the way I like to travel. I love to spend time with everyone and do things as a group, but I think it’s just as much fun to break off into smaller groups and pursue the sights I really want to see. For example, seeing the statue of David at the Accademia in Florence was important to some people, while I was more interested in seeing Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” at the Uffizi. In Verona, I wanted to hike up to Castel San Pietro to view the city from above (12 miles, to be exact), but I had to convince my group that it would be worth it after a long day of walking.  I don’t want to go home feeling like I missed out on something, so I’ve been making a priority of getting to the places that are important to me.
I’ve also learned that acculturation can be a really worthwhile experience through the lens of a tourist. My Italian class at CIMBA has been very engaging because we can take what we learn during the week and try it out when we travel on the weekends. I’m only here for a few months, but it’s been great to immerse myself in the culture and learn some of the language while I’m here. It’s okay if I can’t pronounce every word or convey everything that I want to say. “Sono americana,” and I’m doing the best that I can. I’m here for the experience, and I’m not afraid to make mistakes.