Back in the day, you would never catch me dead staring blankly at a television screen, sitting at my kitchen table eating a meal, or quietly listening to music. Being away on a trip to a faraway land made this even more out of the question – time is of the essence; so why sleep, relax, or eat when you could be exploring?
Even during my too-short semester in Florence, Italy, when I went away for the weekends, I packed every moment full of museums, activities, attractions, and bars. I rationalized this insanity by arguing to myself that during the week I was spending my time enjoying every bite of gelato and every walk down Via Roma. Although I’m glad, in some ways, that I used my time wisely every weekend when visiting other countries and cities throughout Europe, by the end of the semester, my weekly plane trips to these faraway lands left me feeling pretty burnt out.
During one of the last few weeks I spent as a semester-abroad student, my best friend from back in the States came to visit me and we went to Budapest, Hungary with her mother and aunt. For the first time all semester, I didn’t bust my ass trying to find the best prices for every tour and every meal. I didn’t have my guidebook held up over my face, trying to read the map and making sure we had hit every museum on the block. And I didn’t worry.
Instead, I spent a weekend wandering open-air markets, eating at probably-overpriced restaurants, and laying in an awesome bed in – gasp – a chain hotel. I took long showers and read books when I felt like it and I ate a ton of these weird Hungarian pastries. I was a tourist. A lazy tourist, one of the biggest travel blasphemies known to travelers everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure real Budapest is great, just like all the other international cities were great (for the most part). I’m sure Castle Hill and the Great Synogogue are mind-blowing and very much worth venturing outside instead of just driving by in some lame red tour bus. But I will most likely never know what the inside of the House of Terror looks like or what real Hungarian food tastes like, because I was too busy shoveling strawberry yogurt in my mouth for $15 a pop at the Four Seasons. And that is perfectly okay.
I ate breakfast at the hotel dessert bar and I took idiotic pictures posing next to stern guards and funny statues. I had enough food to go into a coma and I went to bed early. I wandered around a beautiful, historic city with my best friend and I didn’t appreciate one bit of it. Just because you’re a traveler doesn’t mean you can’t be a tourist once in a while.