There is a look about tourists, is there not? There is something in their manner that gives them away.
It also helps that they are usually found in ‘the spots’ of the city; which makes the art of spotting them seem effortless.
All that to say, I got a good taste of being spotted as a tourist multiple times during my three-day stay in a different city. I wondered what would have given me away.
I wasn’t carrying a map or constantly looking at my phone for directions. I spoke their language, so I assumed that language couldn’t have given me away, especially with my concerted efforts to keep my sentences short.
Here I am, casually strolling through the city, and a very well-meaning elderly lady walks up to me and goes, “ Hello there, Are you lost? I am happy to help you!”
After the euphoria of being treated so nicely settled down, I politely thanked her for the offer, said I wasn’t lost, and moved on.
I won’t be honest if I say I didn’t doubt her for a second because I did. For a split second, I was convinced she would spike me coffee at the nearby cafe and rob me or something – a result of watching too much crime drama.
I thought this incident to be a one-off and moved on, but not long after, the same day, I had another gentle reminder.
I was at the bus stop. The bus was a few minutes late, which gave me some serious time to doubt my navigation skills and my memory again. The bus arrived, and when I entered through the front door, the polite driver lady said,”‘I know where you are going dear, five bucks please.’
I must admit her politeness disarmed me. But that was not all. It’s not every day that I meet a mind-reading bus driver. I was so convinced she knew where I was going that I didn’t even mind confirming with her. She knew what she was doing.
I sat down and quickly googled to confirm that the bus stop was not an express bus. It had many stops en route. She definitely took me as a tourist, didn’t she?
On the one hand, I was highly impressed by a trip made so easy for me, but on the other, I was not super happy about exposing my ‘tourist’ identity. I had failed my one fun assignment for the day: to fake being a local, faking till I made it.
But I got ‘made’.
That superficial sulking didn’t last long. There are advantages to forgetting quickly.
I’d rather have a mind-reading bus driver every single day. If that comes at the cost of being the ‘eternal tourist,’ so be it.