The Slow Tourist: Finding Balance in the Age of Trends and Bucket Lists.

Hello! How’s your Summer so far? Hope it’s been treating you well.

Where have your Summer travels taken you this year?

Have you ever found yourself saying, “I need a vacation from this vacation!”?

On this post, I’ll share how I try to find balance and get my own kind of fulfillment when leaving home and exploring a new place.

But first, I’d also like to share my thoughts on the negative reputation of tourists—I heard that many would prefer to say they are travelers because of tourists’ bad rap.

Do you consider yourself a traveler, a tourist, or a little bit of both?

Or perhaps like me, you’ve never really put much thought on the labels themselves?

Definition of tourist:

a person who travels and visits places for pleasure and interest.

We’re all tourists in one way or another and we’re always going to optimize our travel experiences through our own understanding of what is worthy and fulfilling.

When a visitor prefers to eat at a chain restaurant over a local one, or choosing a hotel chain over renting local BNBs, or an apartment or hostels—it’s likely that the visitor feels safer to eat and sleep at familiar places. I understand that going to local joints may allow for a more cultural experience but I think prioritizing safety is never a bad idea especially if you’re a first time visitor and your main goal is to visit well-known attractions anyway.

When a visitor waits in line to see popular attractions over hidden local gems—great!—I may even do a bit of that myself as a visitor. These sights and attractions are popular for a reason. Mostly, a positive one, perhaps one that enlightens the visitor to what the place is known for and learn more about the city and its history.

I believe that not one lifestyle fits all nor is better than the other unless we are talking about things that are, in obvious reasons, negative ones. I think of it as being a guest at someone else’s home. We follow simple and basic rules of etiquette like being mindful of what we leave behind. I guess this is where I would agree on the negative connotation of the word tourist—where some display a lack of respect for the culture, its people, and surroundings. But this, honestly (and sadly), also applies to some local residents. I know I shouldn’t generalize a group.

Each box has its own kind of lemon/s. We all aim to be better in whatever box we put ourselves in, regardless of the stereotype of the box. We are our own boxes who just happen to be inside a generalized box.

This blog was inspired with the idea to share travel inspirations to visitors of San Francisco. I’d like for visitors to experience local flavors but at the same time, I keep in mind that San Francisco is a major city with a lot of popular sights to see—all of which are worth experiencing, nonetheless. The histories of most of these landmarks are fascinating!

When I was writing for my previous post about the Palace of Fine Arts, I did some reading about it as I wanted to provide you with more insight. Little did I know, it brought me my own enlightenment about the place. The next time I got to visit PoFA, I experienced it through a different perspective—’twas a renewed appreciation for it, for sure. 

Many moons ago, I told one of my girlfriends: I’m forever a tourist in my own city. That was in Chicago when I lived there, and I still consider myself as one here in SF.

Awestruck, every single time I drive/walk by, and/or cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and I’ve lived here for more than a decade!

I think we will always find something new to explore, or experience the same sight with a different view or mindset each time. There is always something new to discover, something that flourished out of inspiration, even in something ordinary or commonplace.

In the end, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Whether you want to explore the hidden gems or wait in line with the tourist crowd, or do both—all that should matter is what makes you happy, what makes your travel experience a positively memorable one.

Having said all of that, I do prefer a slower pace than the usual way of traveling. However, I’ve never really given much thought about Slow Travel until in recent years when it’s gotten more and more attention. Reading more about it, I realized it’s something I’ve always been inclined to—like a part of my personality that I didn’t know had a label or was even a “thing”.

Back in 2010, I learned of friends who found themselves in the world of wanderlust, conversations about traveling come up and I’d almost always say, “I prefer going on a vacation or simply, a trip, more than traveling”. 

I learned from them that traveling means going to a lot of places to explore, and usually for long periods of time, whereas I prefer to take it slow and simply take on a short adventure and experience something other than my day-to-day life. One major factor could also be financial status—I don’t have the means to constantly leave home. The idea of leaving home constantly and/or checking off a long travel bucket list is overwhelming for me and is not in my capacity. Wanderers, in general, are inspiring and they live the life I could only dream of!

When I explore on my own, I like taking it slow, checking off places little by little whilst taking it all in. When I’m with my S.O. or perhaps my GFs, I focus on the time spent bonding with them.

However, when hosting first time visitors in San Francisco, I try to show them around the city to as much places as I could in hopes of making their visit extra, extra worthwhile. I slip into this mega hosting mode, I could pass for a zombie the day after. I truly enjoy hosting friends and fam regardless of how tired I get. Oh, this gal is so contradicting like that.

For example, when my parents first visited me, the itinerary was quite full, we even drove them almost 2 hrs. to Napa, but for their second visit, we did a bit more of a laid-back itinerary with diverse culinary experiences in the city as the highlight of their trip.

Not too long ago when going on out-of-town trips, I used to make a long wander-list only to end up getting disappointed by not having to check everything off. Why and what are these lists for anyway if I don’t get to enjoy the moments spent on my trips? 

During family trips, as a kid, I’d bring a pillow with me along with some bags of chips for when we get stuck in heavy traffic—and I was completely content with that. We would stop at food stands for local goodies and some stretching. I would play around with our PNS film camera and I remember my mother calling me out for wasting the film roll because she would see me taking snaps of the skies, trees, mountains, and just about any random thing that captures this little kid’s eyes.

I would enjoy the simplest things like a dog with its head popped out of an open car window, tongue out and all (LOL!). I also remember sitting on the ledge of the window of my grandparents’ house just people-watching for hours! I took in almost ten stray cats growing up so perhaps I thought I was a cat. Purr . . . Can’t decide if I’m a cat or a dog.

We all have our differences but in the end, don’t we all just want the same thing?

To experience happiness from something new and flourish from it.

We shouldn’t get too caught up with labels, trends, and bucket lists. The sweetest memories are made when the journey is not strictly curated whether you’re on your own or with company, and most importantly—stay true to yourself.


Trends fade, we’ll never entirely fit one label, and bucket lists are goals meant to change as we grow. 

Say goodbye to societal pressures and—with arms wide open—welcome your own kind of happy wandering, your own kind of bliss.

Thank you for reading and I wish you pleasant travels this Summertime!😊

💛 E

2 thoughts on “The Slow Tourist: Finding Balance in the Age of Trends and Bucket Lists.

  1. B says:

    This is a lovely read! Especially this bit – ‘welcome your own kind of happy wandering, your own kind of bliss’ – I whole heartedly agree! It’s winter & windy these days in Melbourne so I can’t wait until Summer comes. Have a great summer! x

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