At what point am I not a tourist?
I used to think that the answer revolved around public transportation. At this point, I can navigate London transportation at any time of day. But as I’ve visited more countries, I’ve discovered that this is more of a transferable skill rather than one to be relearned in every city.
I feel most like a tourist when I am taking photos: the elephant statues outside of Old Spitalfields Market, the “Cockfoster” tube station sign and the lights adorning Christmas markets. Am I taking a photo because I’ll never see this scene again or because I am “romanticizing my life?” Are these motivations very different from each other?
The reality is, it’s just very easy to romanticize your life when you explore a new neighborhood, city or country each weekend. I’d like to think that I wasn’t too shabby about making the most of the little, mundane moments during my first two years at Tufts. But I’ve had this conversation with others: How will we go from Italian food in Venice to an outing in Davis Square; from Barcelona where the clubs don’t open until midnight to Boston where the T closes at midnight? How will we follow up this semester of exploration in Medford?
I’m struggling to come up with answers, but not because of a lack of what’s happening at Tufts. On the contrary, I am very excited to cook dinners with housemates, to take classes with Tufts professors and to go on coffee date after coffee date with friends.
Before I return to all that is normal, I have another journey to embark on. My semester is ending in two weeks and Tufts doesn’t begin for another month after that. In between these two semesters lies four weeks of solo travel (followed by four days of visiting family in Wisconsin). For all of the growth that’s happened, I know that there will be so much more.
The other question I’ve grappled with has been how to document my experiences. Do I get shot glasses everywhere? A T-shirt? A tattoo? Are iPhone photos enough? What about film? Am I tainting my memories in an attempt to save them? I settled on iPhone photos (and the occasional film), postcards and tote bags — oh, and a different number in my bank account.
Then there are the other things I’ll take away: the habit of journaling (begun, partly, to have content for this column), a few new favorite painters, friends in different corners of the globe, a knowledge of beers and favorite cafes, a heart recovered from its first relationship, a willingness to take more risk, a habit of reading fiction when I’m too anxious with my own thoughts, a belief that maybe it will turn out okay, even if I don’t create plans B and C and D and so, so many stories.
Thank you for letting me share a few of them with you.