Some come to stare, some to stay

Bloody tourists. We’ve probably all thought it in our least tolerant moments- when someone’s stopped to work out directions in the middle of a street, or you can’t get to where you need to be because of too many people taking photos. But last week, I was one of those bloody tourists, clogging up the streets of New York taking a series of incredibly unflattering selfies (seriously, how do you take a good selfie? It is just a matter of taking 800 photos until one of them is passable?!). Here’s an example, one of the better ones, believe it or not.

Me looking happy and ridiculous at the Bethesda fountain, Central Park, NYC
What you doing with that finger, creepy Penny?

Anyway, my family and I spent a week being tourists, marvelling at the city where every street reminds you of a scene from that film/tv show/song/every piece of pop culture ever, and no doubt pissed off countless New Yorkers by misunderstanding the subway, stopping to take pictures in the street and doing everything that I have at one point or another been irritated at tourists for in my city.

At one point my mum wanted to go to M and Ms World and I eyerolled and sighed in true pubescent style (because apparently you are never too old to act like a child around your parents) ‘Really?! We have one those in London’. I thought it was a cringe-y, tourist-y, thing to do. But, on reflection, who the hell am I to tell someone else what they can and can’t do on holiday?

Yes, there’s a certain frustration when you see people visiting cheesy attractions, because you know there’s so much more to your home than that, but isn’t there a certain beauty in seeing something through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time? Of course I’m going to go to the Statue of Liberty, because I don’t know whether I’ll ever get the chance to again. I looked up on holiday so much more than I would do at home, because I wanted to drink it all in, and was rewarded with awesome stuff like this:

Street art in the East Village, artist unknown
Street art in the East Village, artist unknown

Naturally it’s important to try to soak up as much ‘real’ stuff as you can when visiting somewhere new, but you can’t possibly understand a place within a few short days, and believing that you can have anything other than a fairly surface experience is unrealistic and frankly ignorant- there’s nothing worse than the person who tries to act like they know everything about Italian culture after a one-week trip (you had some pasta in Pisa mate, pipe down).

I absolutely believe in seeking to understand a place as much as you can in as authentic a way as possible. But as long as you’re being a culturally sensitive and responsible visitor, I also think there’s a great joy in being unashamedly happy to be seeing something in front of your eyes that you’ve only ever seen in pictures, or imagined in your daydreams.

This isn’t a thinly veiled excuse to brag about going on holiday.

Or at least it’s not entirely a thinly veiled excuse to brag about going on holiday.

I genuinely feel like there’s something to be said for experiencing the world as if you’re a visitor all the time.

So I came home and acted like a tourist in London for the weekend. I went rowing on the river in Hyde Park with my boyfriend, tried to find a pet cemetery (because we’re cool people) and watched a pink sunset over the city with some tinnies. And it was bloody marvellous. I feel so grateful to live somewhere that I’m so happy to come home to. And I want to remember that as often as I can.

Sunset over Merchant's Square, Paddington, London
Sunset over Merchant’s Square, Paddington


6 thoughts on “Some come to stare, some to stay”

  1. I love this! I share in feeling some embarrassment in seeing the touristy places when I visit somewhere new, but without having a friend who’s a local, there’s no way to see only the “genuine” places. And sometimes one just wants to see the world’s largest tinfoil ball roadside attraction, you know?
    And, big question, did you ever find a pet cemetery?


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