An Open Letter to Tourists

My dear fellow travelers,

Why do you carry the city with you wherever you go? Why do you tuck it into your little purses, stuff it into your bags, or pack it into your suitcases?

Can’t you leave it behind where it’s meant to be?

No. You bring it along with you – and the city throws up a cacophony in the silent valley. Your loud music shatters the silence and leaves it in tatters. Your raucous conversations leave the trees trembling, cowering from the onslaught of the friendly abuse you’re hurling around. The trash you left behind – plastic bottles and chips and half-eaten burger – sit like sores on a decrepit’s body, inviting murmured disapproval from all those who pass by.

Wooohoooo, you shout. Wooooohoooo! Your arms spread apart in a comic caricature of your leading Bollywood inspiration. You squeal and shriek and laugh and cause mayhem. The noise reverberates in the mountains, magnified a thousand times over, but when it comes back, it’s nothing more than a foolish, empty, hollow echo of what you sent out.

Why do you walk around in those funny little heels or those tight clothes and flowing gowns, even as you struggle to walk up the mountains or down the stairs of a fort? You think you stand tall on those heels, but all I see is a rag doll tottering around, completely out of place, uncomfortable in your skin, and far removed from the very location you came to explore. Is this what you call having fun?

What place do selfies have in solitude, vines and boomerang videos under the open sky, and social media by the murmuring brook? You check in here and check in there, but did you really stop to check out where you were? With a touch you share photos of the scenery around you, but do you really stop to embrace the vista you’re surrounded by. You ping and tag and retweet and favourite, but can you just pause a while and connect, really connect to the world around you.

Just breathe, relax, and smile – not for the camera, but for yourself. Don’t skim over the world, don’t hurry over it in a quick glance, look at it, really LOOK at it – not through your phone, but your soul. Take in every crease, every crevasse, every light, every shadow and gather them into you. Open your arms wide, and hug the sky. Rest your face against the clouds and wrap the stars around you. Sit quietly and stare into nothingness, until it reflects within you and you’re mirrored in it.

Leave the city behind, turtle. Don’t carry it with you all the time. There’s a world beyond that little shell you’re sticking your neck out of. There’s a window much bigger than the 5-inch phone you’re carrying. There are connections that run far deeper than the ones on social media. And there are stories more interesting than the ones you’re sharing on Instagram.

If only you bothered to look beyond yourself …

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Photo by Liam Simpson on Unsplash

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