A plea to fellow tourists.

Let me start this post by saying that I am all for people getting out there and seeing the world. I think it’s incredible how easy it has become to globe trot, and wonderful that folks young and old are taking advantage.

But my recent travels made me wish there was some kind of cultural awareness exam or basic manners test required before passports are issued.

I know. I sound like a big ol’ Parisian snob. But seriously? I witnessed so many cringe-inducing moments throughout the major cities of Italy, often unfortunately perpetrated by large hordes of my fellow loud talking American citizens. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I saw any actual Italian people in Florence. Just wave after wave of American college students, with their frat-tastically ironic sunglasses and painfully inane conversations.

Like the girl who cheerfully asked me where I lived (Paris) and oh! Can you drive there from here? (Um, not really).

(Yes, I’m a grumpy old fart who’s just bitter that the Jersey Shore guy invited every chick at the pizza place out to a club except me. If anyone watches that show, keep an eye out for my bitter old lady face in the background)

But I’ll give the college kids a pass. They’re young, they’re learning, they’re making an effort to expand their universe.

What I won’t forgive are the tour groups.

Unless you are in elementary school or famous enough to require an entourage, there is no logical reason for you to be traveling anywhere in an organized group of more than 5 people. And by no means should you be wearing a headset, blindly following some crazed guide waving a colorful umbrella or flag or pompom on a stick.

The tour groups (from all over the world) made visiting most of the major landmarks in Italy 10 times more painful than necessary. Crowded around the David, oblivious to anyone else who might want to take a peek at the Uffizi , wildly aiming cameras and video cameras at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, even though there were clear signs and surly security guards reminding you that NO PICTURES ARE ALLOWED.

I don’t know why that last one bothers me so much, but it does. For the love of crap people, what exactly are you planning to do with your blurred snapshot of the Birth of Venus anyway? No one needs visual proof that you were there. Or maybe they do because in 10 years the painting will be destroyed by all the obnoxious flashes going off.

It makes me sad (and slightly hostile), watching people so caught up in capturing the moment that they don’t actually get to experience the moment. Can’t we all just put the cameras away while we’re in the museum, break free from the guided herd for a bit and just enjoy the magnificent stuff in front of us?

Because really, if you’re stuck in a giant tour group that’s making life miserable for every other patron and you’re too busy swapping out telescopic lenses on your new digital camera to actually just enjoy where you are, then what’s the point of traveling?

Besides, I happen to believe that the the only vacation photos anyone will care about in 30 years are the ones like this:


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  1. Scott Collin

    I have seen these groups and their errant flashes. Just for fun, I always like to approach them quietly and tell them that all the major works of art (the ones they’re greedily snapping flash photos of) are fakes. Quite good fakes, but fakes. And that the real works are in storage in the basement.

    It upsets them. And you’d be surprised by how their cameras stay lowered for the rest of the day.

    If you ever find yourself missing these people, just find a copy of the movie Caveman starring the wonderfully talented Ringo Starr. The movie is painful to watch from start to finish with nary a funny moment — just like watching most American tourists make their way through Europe.

    • jfwillson

      We got all vigilante in the Sistine Chapel: every time someone raised a camera to take a pic, Husband would raise his arm directly in their view and say something loudly like “look at the detailing in that cloud over there!”

  2. Katie McWee

    I’ve never travelled outside the US but those same people behave the same way here and it bothers me. I can imagine how annoying they are in Europe. It’s embarrassing to claim them as Americans!

  3. thedailyaven

    uhmmm…what the heck is that? a lampshade?? haha…what was the first thing out of your mouth when you walked in to a hotel room with that in the middle of the room?! so funny. i love the decorating of random hotels in europe… MISS YOU!!

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