I’m not a very good tourist. (Which, for a full-time traveler, is quite something). My inner tourist is non-existent.
Instead, I tend to lurk in cafes and wander the streets, trying hard to blend in and discover “the real _________ (insert your destination here)”.
I don’t like to brandish my camera. The very act of having a camera labels me as a tourist. Which, I don’t like. (It also means most of my pictures suck).
I don’t generally stay in hotels. As a free accommodation guru of sorts, I usually stay locally, and longer-term. Nothing against hotels; I just can’t generally afford to stay in them year-round.
I don’t take tours. I usually stay somewhere long enough to meet local friends who can give me their own informal tour. Oh yeah, and taking a tour most definitely means I’m a tourist.
This post was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
What’s wrong with being a Tourist?
Nothing’s wrong with being a tourist. (It’s not you, tourism; it’s me).
In some ways, my lifestyle of slow travel (initially sustained with a paltry income, which of course prevented too many extravagances) negated the need for tours, or hotels. (And I only used my camera when I thought I wasn’t being watched).
But I can’t deny that many of the “touristy things” I’ve done have been some of the more memorable experiences I’ve had.
- I’ve cruised the river Seine in Paris (twice – day, and night).
- I toured all over New Zealand doing just about every high-adrenaline activity you can imagine.
- I’ve done distillery tours in Scotland and Ireland.
- I took an incredible street-food tour by motorcycle in Saigon.
- I was guided through the Carpathian mountains in Ukraine.
- I was shown the inner workings of an incredibly eclectic and rare piece of the Australian outback.
- I was guided (back) to the top of the Great Wall of China, when nobody else was there.
These were normal tours, that normal tourists do. And I loved them. (Even though I don’t like being a tourist. Go figure).
As much as I might have a hang-up about being labeled a tourist, I also have hang-ups about the whole “off the beaten path” cliché. I wrote a (dare I say) poignant article about it a few years ago, where I arrived at the conclusion that things are usually touristy for a good reason.
Okay, Tourism is cool. So?
So. I’m about to take a trip through Europe. And it’s time to embrace my inner tourist. I want to do as travelers the world round do, and just travel. I don’t want to worry about financially finessing every aspect to the nth degree, and I’m moving too quickly to organically tap into the local culture with my normal lurking style.
Instead, I’m gonna be a tourist.
For three weeks, I’m participating in the Club Carlson Global Travelers program; I’ll be whisked through eight countries in whirlwind fashion, staying at Club Carlson’s family of hotels along the way. Because of the pace of the trip (and relatively short notice), I can’t do much research. I’ll be short on time, and I want to get the most out of each city I visit. Thus, I’ll thrive on tourist culture.
Here are my stops on the trip:
Embracing my Inner Tourist
Thus, I am embracing my inner tourist. I’ll shed my try-to-blend-in disguise (but I won’t go so far as to plaster my bags with Canadian flags just yet). I’ll take that awesome picture even if I’m being watched. I’ll revel in hotel amenities and comforts (normal things like temperature and noise control are luxuries to me now after living on a small Caribbean island). I’ll enjoy tours that will maximize my time and give me insight.
I will proudly wield my camera.
I AM a Tourist! Hear me roar.
Wait, There’s More: Learn How to Earn
Club Carlson has a large rewards program covering worldwide hotels of a few different swish brands. I’ve never really taken advantage of hotel rewards programs, and given my propensity for frequent flyer miles and flying in style for less, I think I’ve been amiss.
If you like to travel, and you also like hacking the finer things in life, applied use of hotel rewards programs can mean free bookings, room upgrades, and other perks (depending on your status).
Thus, throughout the trip I’m going to apply my frequent flyer mile sleuthing capabilities to the Club Carlson program and provide tips along the way for how you can get ahead with hotel rewards points.
As part of the trip, I have a chance to win 1 million Club Carlson points – to give to you! Two other bloggers are simultaneously doing similar trips (one through the Americas; the other through Asia). My winning these points is dependent on your participation; sharing my Facebook and Twitter posts, supporting me on Club Carlson’s Facebook page (which you can do daily during the trip), and watching my trip videos.
So if you want to follow along this fast and furious trip, stay tuned to my site between September 25th and October 15th (or so) and I’ll keep you in the loop with my European adventures, hotel rewards points strategies and tips, and one-click access to show your support and help me win those points.
This post was written as part of the Club Carlson Global Traveler program; a three-week, eight-country adventure I’m taking through Europe, paid for and compensated by Club Carlson. During the trip, I’m exploring the world of hotel points and how to take advantage of free accommodations and upgrades with various strategies.
In all cases, opinions expressed herein are my own; don’t worry – I haven’t sold my soul.