In defense of tourists

The condescension practically oozed off the screen of my iPad in a way that had the ooze been real, I’d be on my way to the nearest Apple store saying, “Idon’tknowwhathappenedpleasefixthis?!”

“Nothing pegs a tourist more quickly than a chunky pair of athletic sneakers. You can spot them from a mile away, and they can take an otherwise neutral look from cool traveler to dorky out-of-towner almost immediately.”

But, but …

“Sure, they may be comfortable shoes for walking, but who wants to look like you got separated from a tour group when you could be blending in with the locals?”

Fortunately, the good folks at Travel+Leisure have just the solution — “12 Men’s Dress Sneakers That Don’t Scream ‘Tourist’.” Prices range from $64 (originally $100) for the Florsheim ‘Press’ Double Monk sneakers to $425 for Common Projects “Original Achilles” suede sneakers.


So if I had just been wearing a $425 pair of suede sneakers, the guy wouldn’t have picked me out of all the people leaving the Stoke-Fulham soccer game five years ago to ask if I was an American. The USC shirt and lack of any kind of English accent wouldn’t have given it away at all!

Actually, my English friend Mark tells me that sneakers, or “trainer,” are kind of a dead giveaway over there that someone’s a tourist.


No matter what you’re wearing on your feet — in my case, a black pair of Nike cross-trainers or black shoes if my wife and I are going to a show —if you’re a tourist, people are going to know it.

Maybe it’s the aforementioned shirt from a U.S. college while in London.

Maybe it’s the 1,000-yard stare and look of panic that says “I only speak English” when someone in Quebec City or Montreal starts speaking to you in French … which by the way, is what I recommend doing in that instance; people will generally start speaking English.

Maybe it’s the gawking and taking pictures of everything you see, and I readily confess to doing both.

But regardless, no matter what shoes you wear or how many restaurants you go to in order to “fit in with the locals” — I’m pretty sure my wife and I have seen every episode of “Rick Steves’ Europe” at least a half-dozen times — you’re going to get found out.


But even if you’re the most-obvious of obvious tourists, who cares as long as you’re not getting in everyone’s way — and those people walking through New York City oblivious to anything that wasn’t their cellphones were most certainly not tourists — committing crimes or otherwise not messing anything up?

Being a tourist is fun. Riding the cable cars in San Francisco is fun, and who exactly do you think is doing that?

And if people are judging you for obviously being a tourist — although I’m not sure what it is about black Nike cross-trainers that is a dead giveaway — you get to judge them right back.

For instance, my wife and I both agreed that while the woman in the matching shoulderless gingham top and shorts set with white boots slightly higher than ankle-length probably had many cute outfits in her closet at home, this look, while a noble effort, didn’t quite get it done.

And seriously, selfie-as-false-advertising guy can go pound sand, as can “dilly dilly” guy. But it’s not like any of us are ever going to see each other again, anyway, right?

Furthermore, unless they’re the types who never leave home for any reason, everyone will be a tourist at some point, and I guarantee you they won’t be attired in a Travel+Leisure-approved manner.


2 thoughts on “In defense of tourists

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