I will admit, my biggest travel fear is looking like a tourist. I am not the kind of person to enjoy drawing attention to myself and I am very, very easily embarrassed. Unfortunately for me, this posed a major dilemma, as my program in Italy pops around from location to location––there is no time to settle down and “live like a local.” I would not be with a host family, and I would definitely be visiting all the picturesque, quintessential Italian photo-ops. And, the most obvious indicator of my touristy-ness––I don’t speak Italian. So, this all meant that I needed to face the inevitable––I was going to be a tourist, and once I faced that issue, I realized it is not as embarrassing as I made it out to be.
Now, I’m not saying one should not try to speak the language of the country they’re in, or not be mindful of their mannerisms, but I am saying one should not be ashamed to do the “touristy” things––gondola rides, touring the Colosseum, posing with the leaning tower of Pisa. Do not let your fear of looking like a tourist stop you from doing things you have always wanted to do, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. That being said, you can (and should) balance that with “living like a local” so you can really get a feel for the country. Turn your phone off and explore! Go to the grocery store and attempt to cook a meal! Try local cuisine! It is possible to live and explore both as a tourist and a local, and the best trips involve both.
On an unrelated note, a general piece of advice for those doing longer study abroad programs (and to myself)––it is okay to relax and not do anything, even if you feel like you should be doing something because, Hey! You’re in Italy! Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself!