Whenever I travel, I shrink from the moments when I act like a tourist—when I fumble with the unfamiliar money, when I pull out a map on the street, when I ask someone, “Do you speak English?” (uncosmopolitan me, I don’t speak any other languages).
But what’s the big deal?
Coming from New York City, I’m well accustomed to tourists. And I don’t mind them at all. It’s nice to see people visiting here from all over the world, and their enthusiasm always makes me realize afresh how lucky I am to live here—and all New Yorkers know how important tourists are to the city’s economic health. Most of all, I just don’t pay much attention.
But when I’m the tourist, I feel a childish agony of self-consciousness. Intellectually, I know that people aren’t staring in mocking disbelief, that they aren’t interested enough to feel disdainful.
It’s my foolish pride—my desire to appear smooth and sophisticated and in control. I imagine that if I traveled more, these feelings would wear off, or at least I’d become more skilful traveler.
But in the meantime, I keep reminding myself of something C. S. Lewis wrote: “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” I don’t want my pride to keep me from venturing away from the familiar.
It’s a sign of immaturity to be too concerned with my adult dignity.