I live in a tourist town, which means that in certain seasons we are overrun by camera-toting sightseers intent on packing in as much adventure as their credit cards and cranky kids will allow. From early spring to late fall work hours increase as many businesses close later, grocery stores morph into scary places filled with clots of vacationers and their cockeyed carts, and our favorite restaurants are inundated by sun-stunned visitors escaping the heat. Shortly thereafter I begin to have nightmares in which our house is taken over by unwelcome tourists who feel that we are unreasonable for not letting them wash their Hummers in our backyard.
Whenever possible during these crazy months, hubs and I escape our personal half-acre of paradise to take pictures of other wonders and spend time with someone else’s tourists for a while. Although the scenery’s different, many of the tourists look exactly the same, as we’ve discovered by traveling widely. This year it will be California. Last year it was South Carolina. In August. In record heat.
After growing up in a Midwestern city that attracted many businesses and college students but nary a tourist, living in a place like this has been an experience. When your daily life is someone else’s vacation, you learn a lot. For example, I’ve learned when to visit the grocery store, which streets and restaurants to avoid and, most importantly, how to dress like a local. The last skill has netted me requests for directions in several neighboring states, Philadelphia, Boston, and Madrid. It may not be handy if you don’t know your way around the town you’re visiting, but it can help you avoid getting scammed by people who take advantage of clueless travelers, and it can net you better service in restaurants, bars, and grocery stores.
Giving the appearance that you’re at home isn’t that difficult. The number one rule is: Avoid wearing fanny packs. Locals and attentive tourists alike have beheld the horrors of such adornments in large concentrations, and so they do not use them. This is not to say that fanny packs don’t have their perks; if your butt is too flat, for example, they provide the illusion of bulk. Since I’ll never have that problem, I eschew them altogether. Rule number two: Be nice to wait staff and other service people. Also, drive like you have at least a passing familiarity with traffic laws. Walk with confidence, even if you don’t know where you’re going, and learn to look but not gawk. And finally, for the love of God, do not take video footage of buildings, mountains, trees, or other unmoving objects.
See? It’s not too tough. For bonus points, don’t use a local’s garden hose to wash your car without their permission. They don’t like that sort of thing.