I can victoriously proclaim that I no longer feel like a total tourist! It took a few months, plenty of wrong turns, one temporarily lost Oyster card, and more credit card bills than I would care to think about, but I feel settled. Not as a Londoner (I don’t think I could ever feel that local). But I do feel quite comfortable as a temporary city-dweller who knows her way around most of the time.
What made me realize that I don’t feel like an awkward tourist anymore? It seems that an incessant mass of tourists has descended upon London in the past couple of weeks. They are everywhere, clogging up my morning commute, taking pictures when I need to walk past them, and frequently shuffling all the way to the front of the tube entrance barricades only to figure out that their ticket is rejected, which promptly causes a traffic jam for everyone behind them. Realistically, though, I know that tourists are always abundant in London. They haven’t increased in exorbitant number. Perhaps what has changed is my perspective.
I’ve found myself more irritated by tourist activity than I usually am. Yes, I started to purposely walk through tourist photos sometimes, because avoiding it would mean a lot of stopping (or bobbing and weaving!). While I’ll never consider myself too cool to still do “touristy” activities, living here for a while has made me comfortable moving about the city with ease and thus becoming slightly annoyed by those who understandably don’t. I just need to remind myself that we have all been there. I have been that person with the rejected tube ticket. Or the inadequate sense of direction. Or the dreaded language barrier. It is part of traveling, and being a tourist isn’t something for which we should necessarily feel embarrassed. Instead, let’s celebrate our willingness and fortunate opportunities to move out of our comfort zones.
Like I said, I couldn’t ever feel like a local here. However, as I get older and stretch my legs in more parts of the world, I do find it cool that I no longer really know what to say when people ask where I live. Do I say Wisconsin, where I grew up? Or Minneapolis, where I go to college? Or do I say “Nowhere, at the moment.” Being college students (especially those who travel) allows us to collect “adopted homes.” I collected Minnesota when I moved away from home after high school. I added Nantes when I lived in France last year. And I think I can now add London to my list. Here’s hoping it’s a list that continues to grow.
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<p>I am Jane from Janesville, Wisconsin. I study communications and French at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but I like to spend as much time as possible studying abroad. One day, you'll probably find me living in Paris. If you can't find me there, you must not have searched all the boulangeries.</p>