I don’t do tourism well.
Sightseeing overloads me with buildings, paintings, terrain with no context. A whirlwind of “I have to see the Mona Lisa” and “You haven’t visited here until you’ve seen the mountains.” I see things without understanding their context, and I drift along from thing to thing.
When I travel, I want to engage with my destination. I want to learn, to make sense. I want to experience the destination with all my senses and make sense of it in my mind.
I want my tour guide to take me to the mountains and point out the flora there, explaining to me what plants make good tea and honey. I want them to show me the restaurants where the locals eat so I can get a feel for their lives, to set me up in an artsy coffeehouse so I can observe people. Tour guides aren’t equipped to do that, so I have to do it myself. Travel becomes a research project, but that’s okay.
My biggest preparation as a traveler, however, is internal. I prepare myself for the cultural differences and adopt humility, because I am the outsider and will make mistakes. I open myself up to gratitude for the experience.
Travel without gratitude, in my opinion, is hardly worth the time spent.