You’re probably thinking ‘what is Eleni on about?’ So many guides tell us to find the local spots and offer insider knowledge as that’s where the real magic is. I’m not arguing the opposite, in fact, I agree and I look for these guides just as much as the next person. Actually, I’m one of the people writing these guides so believe me when I say that this is the current travel trend.

Nobody wants to be a tourist, or at least admit that they are. The line between tourists and travellers is somewhat blurred, I should know as I wrote my dissertation on it, but it’s fair to assume that the word ‘tourist’ has certain negative connotations attached to it.

‘Don’t go there, it’s full of tourists’, ‘it’s a tourist trap’ or ‘that’s the tourist price’ are phrases we all hear often when travelling. We try to avoid touristy places when visiting a country, whilst being a tourist ourselves.

A chapter of a recent book I read, How to Be a Better Tourist by Johan Idema, questions why tourists dislike other tourists and looks at how the growth of the tourism industry affects travelling and the destination. In fact, put this book on your list if you’re interested in conscious, alternative travelling and how your travel experience impacts the place you’re visiting. It’s such a good read that I’m slightly jealous I didn’t write it the book myself.

We reject identifying as tourists because it doesn’t seem authentic or cool, perhaps because we don’t want to do the same thing everyone else is doing. Instead, we’d rather explore the underground scene, the local lifestyle, the real deal. There is one occasion, however, when being a tourist is a great thing and I highly encourage it. When? When you are in your home country.

That’s right. How much of your country, your hometown have you explored before you’re off conquering the world? Do you know its neighbourhood tales, its local businesses, its museums and tourist attractions?

I often talk about the change in mindset I had when I returned back home to Cyprus after university and began to truly cherish my island. For years I had been obsessed with the ‘foreign’, falsely comparing other countries to mine and annoyed when the same opportunities didn’t exist here. I got away any chance I could and spent so much time exploring other corners of the world when I hadn’t even fully discovered where I came from. I’m not saying only travel once you’ve seen your land, just don’t forget to do both.

My journey in appreciating Cyprus began when friends came to visit on summer breaks while at university. I was playing the role of the guide, visiting everything this place has to offer with them, even the touristy spots. In fact, I went to places I had never been before as I had dismissed them as ‘only for tourists’, unconsciously shutting down a part of my culture.

It can be so much fun to see your country as a traveller. Go on a retreat, go camping, glam it up at a luxury hotel just because, have a staycation. Why not take a weekday off and see the sights?

Be a tourist in your home country. Perhaps it will help in noticing how tourists interact with a space, how they behave and ultimately, how you behave when you’re abroad. Take that cruise boat and join that walking tour of the old town. You never know what more you may discover and it might help in looking at the place you think you know too well, from a new perspective.

 

All photos are by Eleni Philippou