thoughts on tourists

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As a self-proclaimed world adventurer/explorer/traveler, rarely do I find myself in the shoes of a local. In fact, as a third-culture kid who’s lived in three countries with heritage in many more and upwards of ten countries visited, with hundreds more on my bucket list, I don’t actually consider anywhere in the world to be home.

I don’t even have a proper accent. The way I talk reflects the people around me. Although born with a native British accent, if you met me in Vancouver amongst the friendly Canadians, you wouldn’t believe me (until you convinced me to say ‘water’ and ‘Harry Potter’ and then proceeded to laugh with glee).

I picked up much more of an American twang whilst living over in the States in grade 3-4, and it’s kind of turned Canadian now that I’m up here. I’ve never had a true ‘voice’ so to say, which can be confusing because I don’t always know how to talk. I tend to just pick up an accent in my head and go with it, bouncing off those around me as audio clues. Watch me come back from Australia talking completely different all over again.

I’m envisioning the years of my immediate future to be filled with minimal material possessions and lots of time on the road, getting wonderfully lost and discovering cultures and values and international ways of life.

But today, I sat at the waterfront of Vancouver Harbour overlooking Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal and I felt a tiny bit like a local. I’ve lived in Canada for almost nine years now (with intermittent breaks to far-flung lands) so I felt very much like a Vancouverite as I sat and people-watched the thousands wandering the cruise ship, the waterfront, the tour bus stations and in between the hotels clutching on to various shapes and sizes of maps, cameras, backpacks, water bottles, souvenirs and tourist paraphernalia.

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It was intriguing to watch familiar confusion on their faces dissolve into clarity as they finally understood the guide maps dotted around information stands. It was melodic to hear the chatter of countless dialects and languages as honeymooners, families, backpackers, luxury travelers and business-people blabbed away at each other.

It was exciting to feel the novelty they felt as they wandered through this brand new city in a totally new area of the world.Ā I envisioned hours of flights, days of cruising, months of planning and breathless moments of thrill as long-awaited or spontaneously-booked adventures were coming to life.

Although I appreciated the feeling of knowing exactly where I was walking to the nearest Starbucks, and was approached four times for directions in a matter of steps and sat on the same bench I always sit on at Canada Place, I also envy those who are discovering this place for the first time. They are seeking out the nooks and crannies of the city, wearing clothes that were recently picked out and crammed into a suitcase and are experiencing Vancouver for the first (or millionth) time.

So thankyou to all you Vancouver tourists. Please enjoy your stay in our city of glass with the ocean on your doorstep and the mountains as your scenic backdrop. Take full advantage of everything we have to offer in this land of friendly ‘sorry’ and ‘eh’ sayers and copious amounts of maple syrup and flannels and toques.

Now please excuse me as I go prepare my bags and spend all my time between now and my next adventure on Trip Advisor and at least 40 pages deep into my travel plans.

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