Tourists should not be criticized for visiting cities

Finding wonder in the seemingly mundane should make a tourist public enemy No. 1.


Photo by Kimberly Theisen

Emilee Wentland poses in front of tulips at Keukenhof fields in The Netherlands in April of 2017.

I love being a tourist.

Whether that means jumping in front of a notable statue, sprawling out in front of an iconic field of tulips or eating a somewhat-cliche food in the city’s culture, I love doing it and I will do it all. It doesn’t matter if I’m as close as Minneapolis or as far away as London — I will act as a tourist if I so please.

Granted, in those cities, I am a tourist by any definition. I don’t live there (unfortunately) and I visit them to see the sights, eat the food and take in the culture.

Being a tourist is incredibly fun. In cities that speak other languages, you might sound silly at times, but as long as you’re trying your best, most people don’t seem to mind. Honestly, as long as no one is being “an obnoxious American” abroad, being a tourist is perfectly OK and should be a good time.

However, locals don’t always seem to feel the same way I do. One time in Venice, Italy, I saw a very rude sign telling me, a tourist, in no such words to get out of the city. (I didn’t listen to the graffitti, if you were wondering).

In fact, in Barcelona, Spain, there is an entire movement by locals that has become known as “tourism-phobia,” according to The Independent. Over the years, there has been an increase of this so-called tourism-phobia, with locals posting signs telling tourists to go home or that tourists are terrorists.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the tourism industry brought in $7.6 trillion worldwide in 2014. London had a record 19 million tourists visit the city in 2016, bringing in nearly 12 billion British pounds (less than 16 billion dollars at today’s conversion rates), according to the London Evening Standard.

Monetarily, tourism is an incredible asset to cities all over the world.

As someone who has lived in Wisconsin their entire life, I always love to get out and visit other places. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking in the culture of places in Spain, Hungary, Italy and other countries in Europe. I love learning the history of the cities I visit. I’m not just there to crowd up the city center and eat overpriced food from a TGI Fridays that is clearly aimed at tourists.

That being said, I am someone who loves to take photos. I used to mainly take pictures of the buildings I saw and move on, until one of my friends told me, “Emilee, these sights will always be here. You, on the other hand, will not be. Take pictures of yourself.” From then on, I started posing in front of historic monuments and tulip fields — or maybe even taking an awkwardly positioned forehead selfie.

Doing this should not be criticized by other tourists or locals.

On a recent trip to Dublin, Ireland, my friends and I spent an hour taking photos of ourselves on the top floor of the Guinness Storehouse. The views were incredible (the normal cloud coverage was absent just for us) and we learned how to pour “the perfect pint” just minutes prior — that’s worth showing off! By the time we finished taking photos, our pints of “the black stuff” were getting warm, but that didn’t make the experience any less exciting.

I may have felt a little silly taking so many pictures — there were five of us posing — but I still had a blast. Those photos commemorate a fun experience we had together in a beautiful Irish city. I have no regrets about it. I have done the same thing in other cities in Europe and I even did it in Minneapolis just last weekend.

It doesn’t matter where you are, but I think it’s fun to be a tourist so long as you’re exploring and appreciating the city and not taking it for granted.

Wentland can be reached at [email protected].