Being in DC, especially during the summer, one tends to see a fair amount of tourists, especially if one happens to be near the Mall, as I am. And there are a few trends one tends to notice after a while. You know, the fanny packs, the map clutched in one hand, camera swinging ’round the neck, possibly a posse of family members waiting for instructions.
Simply by watching these individuals for a few minutes, one thing becomes quite clear: they have a checklist. Probably not physical–or digital–but a definite checklist nevertheless.
It’s a checklist of all the things they need to “see” — or rather, take pictures of in order to post to their social network of choice, proving that they have accomplished something of worth.
Washington Monument? Check. Lincoln Memorial? Check. Ditto all the other presidential memorials. Ditto those wars (I mean, who can keep them straight anyway?). Smithsonian? Check. Capitol building? Check? White House? Check.
Check, check check. Done, done, done.
Many barely take a look at a building or monument to consider what it is, why it’s there, what its significance is. All they do is stop and take a picture. They’ll figure it out later, as they attempt to caption the photo online. Or not. It’s just another building. Those to whom it is a sign of accomplishment will recognize it.
It astonishes me sometimes.
And yet, we all do it. There are “expectations” in whatever we do, and we attempt to make sure to dot our i’s and cross our t’s, if only to avoid ridicule, or worse: silence.
When it comes to history and architecture and museums–all those touristy things DC is so famous for, I admit to being a complete nerd (honestly, would I be pointing these things out with such disdain on my blog if I wasn’t?). I love to read all about the history and significance of everything I come across.
Seriously. Never go to a museum with me. You won’t escape alive. I have to read every. single. caption. on. every. single. piece.
And yet, I am totally guilty of having an internal checklist for many things. Just because I prefer to explore the history of those places I visit doesn’t mean that I don’t miss out on a lot of other fantastic things going on around me that I am either ignorant of, or simply don’t have a preference for.
But what kills me about these tourists is that there’s a reason for these things, these places, to be on a checklist. And if you don’t discover why they are so important, why people care that you have been to a place, then what’s the point?
I’m not saying you need to be like me, soaking up whatever knowledge I can for the pure joy of it.
All I’m saying is find your reason to visit places. Find your significance. It’s there. You just need to look for it.