Don’t Be a Tourist

BART, 2016
BART, 2016

I don’t know about you— but there is nothing I hate more than being a tourist. When you’re a tourist; you feel trapped. You do what everyone else tells you what you should do— rather than doing what you personally want to do.

There are a lot of ways we can “de-touristify” our lives, photography, and creative processes.

Less tourism in life

Garden Grove, 2016
Garden Grove, 2016

To be a tourist is to follow a cookie-cutter example. For example, if you fly to a certain city for traveling— you go and see the standard sites, book a tour guide, and stay on a pre-conceived route on a bus.

If you’re reading this— you probably are not a standard tourist. I’ll assume when you’re traveling you prefer to do things by yourself, and not follow some red flag.

However how sad it is that we follow a tourist-like process in life. We study hard in high school to go to a prestigious college (our parents tell us to). We choose a “safe” major like biology, computer science, or business to make a lot of money, to buy a big house, buy a nice car, save up for retirement, and then save up for our kids to go to college. We don’t really enjoy your lives until we’re retired, but by then we might not be healthy enough to travel (or God forbid; we might already be dead).

What I encourage is to create your own path and route in life. Don’t feel like you need to follow societal conventions. Life is short; would you rather live a boring and cookie-cutter life, or would you rather take risks, try something radically different, and at least die knowing that you tried to live a life unique and true to yourself?

Less tourism in photography

SF, 2016
SF, 2016

I have never seen a photo of the Eiffel Tower where I go, “Wow! That is the most unique photo I have ever seen in my life. I must feature this photo, and share it with all of my friends.”

All of the photos I love are extraordinary photos of ordinary places— rather than ordinary photos of extraordinary places.

Therefore know that if you travel and want to make good and unique photos— follow your nose. When you decide to travel to a unique place to take photos, my suggestion is this: don’t do any research beforehand, and let your intuition and instincts lead you.

When you reach to your AirBnb or hotel; simply ask the staff in the front for their recommendations of places to see, and things to do. And if you’re really savvy— you can ask, “What are some things you recommend I do or eat that you personally like to do in your free time?” I find that by saying this— I can enjoy more “authentic” local entertainments (rather than going to the same TripAdvisor restaurants which are really expensive tourist traps).

I have also found that one of the biggest problems I face when traveling is being overly reliant on my smartphone. Before I had a smartphone and Google Maps— I would love getting lost. This meant I would wander down hidden alleyways, find unique restaurants and cafes, and come across unique photo opportunities. However now with Google Maps, I am never lost— and all the places I go tend to be more generic. As a practice now, I try to use as little Google Maps and GPS as possible. And the more lost I become, the happier I am.

Less tourism in creativity

SF, 2016
SF, 2016

Creativity can’t be “taught” in the standard sense. I don’t think just by reading a few books on creativity or attending a workshop on creativity you can suddenly become “creative.” I simply define creativity as following whatever interests you— and becoming obsessively passionate with whatever that is.

I used to read a lot of self-help books on “how to be more creative.” But these recipes never work. They can help spark some new ideas (which are always useful)— but by following a recipe, you give yourself less of an opportunity to try something new.

I’ve picked up cooking recently, and I’ve found that while most recipes work quite well— they end up being quite boring. What I like to do nowadays is to put in random ingredients— and have found (by chance) some of the best combinations of spices. I randomly tried to put cinnamon on pork belly once— and I found it to be the best thing ever. I doubt I would have discovered it if I just followed some standard pork belly recipes online.

I also think that sometimes reading too many books on creativity can hamper your creativity. Why? Reading recipes and “how-to’s” on creativity narrows your mind (the exact opposite of being creative). To be truly creative is to have your mind as open as possible, not excluding, and to accepting of all ideas. The more we rely on “experts” and less on ourselves; the more generic our work becomes, and the less creative we become.

Be a flaneur

BART, 2016
BART, 2016

So friend ultimately what I want to leave you with is this— embrace more randomness, uncertainty, and serendipity into your life.

The opposite of a tourist is a “flaneur”— someone who wanders aimlessly, at a slow pace, and enjoys every step of the way. To be a flaneur isn’t to always look at your smartphone to find directions, and not to always trust “recommendation applications.” It means to talk to more locals and to take the risk of eating at a bad restaurant (or even worse, drinking bad coffee). However the more risk we take, and the less we listen to the cookie-cutter advice of others, the more alive we feel, the more excited we are, and the more fun we have.

And the more excited and fun we have, we can re-discover our childlike minds of creativity and play. And what was better than being a kid again?

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