Don't Lose That 'Tourist' Feeling
I’ve called Granada home for years but when my parents came for a second visit last month, I was a little bit at a loss as to what I should show them. They had already checked all the essential boxes last time, but I wanted to impress them with new and exciting sites. For the first time in…well, maybe ever I found myself on Tripadvisor and other sites looking for the best lesser-known places to take them. It was so ironic, considering I wanted to give them an ‘authentic experience’ of my life in Spain, now that they had more time to stay.
But instead of feeling embarrassed by that search, I have to admit that I am SO glad I did it! I was reminded of places (many within 5 minutes of my house) that I hadn’t visited during my first few days in Granada and had long forgotten about. I’m not one to check out basilicas and monasteries for fun on my day off, but with my parents in town as an excuse, I jumped at the opportunity to escort them.
We had such a good time! They were incredibly impressed that places like that existed and so was I―but for me, it was even more so because they existed right down the street and I had gone years without noticing them. I realized that taking time to rediscover that tourist feeling can be so invigorating and refreshing.
As you’ve probably gathered, Claudia and I are big proponents of integrating yourself into the lifestyle here in Spain and we believe you will get so much more out of being immersed in the everyday wonders rather than falling into all the guiri traps of living like an outsider, rather than a local. While this is the advice I would give 90% of the time, I also believe that true thriving can only be reached through balance and that’s why I still recommend getting in touch with that ‘tourist feeling’ from time-to-time.
So what am I referring to, really? Well, for me, this means visiting the most famous landmarks, museums, plazas, etc, often paying for tours (or going the free walking tour route!) and eating and drinking in the most popular parts of town. Let’s be honest―the first week you spend in your new home in Spain will probably revolve completely around this kind of tourism. And the following month will be filled with more in-depth exploration but still consist mostly of ‘tourist’ outings. From there, you’ll probably lead towards one of two tendencies―continuing along the same path and living as a ‘tourist’ or changing your ways, typically slowing you roll, and starting to treat your Spanish city as a ‘normal home.’
I do recommend the second approach. However, I think it’s only healthy to break from that every now and again. I know it’s much more in-vogue right now to call yourself a traveler rather than a tourist, but I don’t think the tourist route should be totally condemned. Honestly, when you’ve lived in Spain as long as Claudia and I, it’s sometimes a breath of fresh air to do ‘tourist things.’
Although it can be a bit overwhelming and stressful to receive guests and attempt to give them the full experience in your city (usually on a really tight schedule), I secretly love this challenge. It’s so much fun for me to have an excuse to visit the Alhambra again and fit in all of my favorite food and restaurants in a short period of time. If we’re being honest, I sometimes feel silly paying to enter important buildings in my own city or going out for paella midday because this is my ‘real life,’ but it’s different when I’m doing it for someone else.
In that way, I recommend you truly take advantage of any visits from friends or family to show off your city and take it in again from a fresh perspective! If you are ‘too cool’ to do these things after the first month, you will forever be limiting your experience in the city to what you thought was most important in that first month, and that’s not usually the most holistic approach. My experience last month is living proof of that and I’m so glad it came to be the way that it did, reminding me of the forgotten value of some ‘tourist time.’