How NOT to Tourist

I live in a tourist town at least in the summer months. I live here, work here and play here all year round. But we are not the most touristy of tourist destinations. Frankly I don’t know how ya’ll that live there do it! Most people that live here probably don’t have the same list of complaints that I do but we happen to live directly on the busiest beach in the area. Well across the street actually. At the end of our longish driveway is sand and ocean. While most of the tourists are welcomed, considerate and kind there are enough that aren’t to warrant a post. I know it seems like weird timing in the midst of a no travel pandemic but that has sort of added to it too. Now seems like a time where we might have the time to reflect on our past and future adventures. You’ll find examples and explanations of why you shouldn’t do these things and how it makes the people in the town feel. Sometimes tourists like this have even been our own house guests!  I really hope you take it the right way and stop to consider the spirit of these points on your next trip whenever that is.

About our town

We get lots of visitors from the city nearby mostly for the drive and the beaches, those from nearby provinces like the shopping but we really do get tourists from all over the world. Our little spot is not that big a place and around 1000 people live here. A lot of the real estate here (especially the really expensive homes) are owned by those from over seas. However we are not a tourist economy. Other than accommodations there is really nothing that is summer only. Local business still need local support to make it through the winter months. There are over 25 listings for AirBNBs within 3 km of my home. The year round rental market here has really taken a hit with the rise of AirBNB type accommodations and rent has pretty much doubled in the last 7 or so years.

What draws people here is the proximity to the coast, the perfect views and the quaintness of the towns. There are some big sites like Peggy’s Cove, beautiful beaches and local sea food. In a lot of ways it’s a lot like costal New England. Our real estate prices are pretty high for the province but there is a good mix of people who live here. Lots of the city’s wealthiest people live in the area but plenty of regular people do too. There are still some deals but if you want a nice turn key home with a view you’re looking at half a million dollars but you could also spend $3 million if you want. 

We have our own economy that would function if all the tourists left. We have close knit community organizations and it’s a busy thriving place. Most people work in the city a little less than an hour away but we are closer to rural than suburban. This area was settled in the 1750’s so there is lots of history here to check out too. We’re thought of as a fishing community but that’s not really been the case since the 1950’s. On average people that come here usually stay about a week.

Real people live and work there everyday

No matter where you go, even to the biggest tourist traps in the world, you have to remember that people live there and work there every day. Sure some people have jobs that exclusively cater to the tourist trade but others do not. Some of those people work days but others work nights or weekends just like anywhere else. While you are visiting conduct yourself in such a way that you would at home not to disrupt your neighbor’s sleep schedule or movement. For us this can mean not having our driveway blocked. Sometimes when the beach is really busy cars can stretch for about half a kilometer in either direction. Parking is prohibited on one side of the road so vehicles can get through slowly on the provincial highway. Often people that ‘just want to take a picture’ or similar pull over and park blocking our entire driveway. Sometimes people even leave their vehicle there for hours! Obviously this isn’t cool or legal. There is no way to track down the owner among the thousands of people at the beach and we shouldn’t have to! When someone parks there (including a tour bus once) we can’t leave for work, come home and even if we have to pick something up we have to carry it 150 m to the road and it very well might be a heavy tile saw. 

We can and have gotten cars towed when this happens which costs the owner well over $500 in towing, taxi and impound fees but it takes well over an hour for that to happen. It seems innocuous but illegal parking can literally cost us half a days work! Another common issue we experience is illegal camping on the beach. You are not permitted to stay overnight on the beach or in the parking lot. Pretty often though people do which we really don’t mind. When it becomes an issue is when those people are really noisy. That obviously prevents us from sleeping and it might happen on several nights during the week even if you are just there for one. Loud voices or music is one thing but what happens most often is fireworks mixed with alcohol. Over half the nights here someone puts on a great fireworks display here right after dark which is pretty cool to watch. But … drunk people tend to stay up very late and develop transient ADD. That combination manifests as a few fireworks every hour all night long. Imagine that three nights a week for a quarter of the year! 

Mission Beach regulations, San Diego, California

Get a data plan

It’s 2020 ya’ll and for a decade now we’ve had easy access to turn by turn navigation and the internet on the go. Now 96% of North Americans use mobile internet, it is and has been the default position for some time. Sure sometimes you don’t have coverage but here all three networks have full bars. The reason I mention this is it’s no longer expected that the people around you are your own personal google maps. There was a time where it was okay to ask random people you saw for directions but even then there was etiquette. During the summer months I often have people pull onto the shoulder across traffic mere feet from where I’m running to ask me where something is. Often this almost causes a traffic accident. Guess what it’s unpleasant to have someone aim a metal vehicle that weights several tonnes at your feet while you’re out running just to have them demand directions to a specific spot without saying hello or thank you.

I’m not saying you can’t ask passers by for directions anymore but if you do it has to be with the upmost of respect. Interrupting someone’s day to ask for help benefits only you so it should be done kindly. The people that generate a vehicle related fight or flight response in me most often just yell a specific destination at me as I pass their window and they think I’m rude? If you need directions the most acceptable place to get them is at a gas station or a place of business. If you are going to ask someone on the street be respectful. Pull over or turn around following to local driving laws and pull off safely and far away from your intended target. People (women alone especially) shouldn’t be expected to lean into your vehicle to talk to you. It’s one of those things we’ve been told isn’t safe from childhood. Get out of your car so you can talk to the direction giver at a normal volume and in a non-threatening way. Or just get a data plan and load the directions yourself! If you don’t want to pay the extra $20 for that that’s a you problem not a me problem!

Follow the local laws

AirBNB style accommodations have become increasingly popular and I get it. They are cheaper, more comfortable and you’re not locked away in some hotel room somewhere. I opt for this style of accommodation when I travel too. But keep in mind when you stay these sorts of places your behavior is more important to those around you then when you are in a tourist only district. It’s a way nicer way to travel but you’re now way more integrated into the community than dozens of floors up in a high rise hotel. This means it’s way more important for you to follow the local laws and ordinances. You have to know what the local noise bylaws are, the leash laws and for heaven’s sake don’t trespass on other’s property! Our driveway connects the local trail system to the beach but it’s a private driveway. We also have it obviously blocked. We might let people we know use it but we don’t want everyone walking through our front yard only 6 feet from our house at all hours. The same goes for loose dogs rambling in to our yard with no owners. Our beach used to be more of a party beach and once long before I moved in honey woke up in the middle of the night surprisingly cold for a summer’s night. He had no blankets on him and he looked down at the floor. There was a man who had drunkenly walked up our driveway into the house, upstairs and then stolen the blankets in the middle of the night. Sure that might be your idea of a wild vacation night but holy smokes is that not cool! 

I regularly see people with out of town plates texting and driving, speeding, on private property taking pictures and camping on the beach with a campfire (which is always illegal) during a burn ban. If you’re going to travel somewhere it’s your responsibility to know what the local laws are and follow them!

Act like a human

Vacations are great and it is a great time to let your hair down but there are some lines you just shouldn’t cross. Here’s the thing all of us that live here know which properties are weekly rentals in the summer and if you make your presence known we all know where you’re staying. One thing that really gets me riled up is when people from away shout lewd things at me when I’m running by in MY neighborhood. Most of the time it happens it’s right by my house where I know literally everyone but you. So I tend to feel safe enough to give it right back to them after all all your neighbors for the week are my friends all the time. I just wanted to add that voicing your opinions loudly to locals that are against the values of the place you are visiting isn’t cool either. For example gay marriage in Canada is settled, it has been for a while. If you feel the need to comment loudly to your traveling companions about your feelings on the matter that’s not right either.

I know others complain about being kept up late, fireworks that go off course and threaten their homes during dry spells, parties that spill over into their yards or the constant smell of pot. If you are looking for a week of crazy parties that’s totally cool but make sure the location you pick matches the time you want to have. If you find out that you’ve miscalculated ask yourself if it’s fair to ruin the week for everyone around you just so you can have a good time? Vacations aren’t an excuse for piss poor behavior no matter where you go there is always a line you can cross that you shouldn’t. If in doubt think “would I like it if someone did this next to my house?” Also keep in mind your behavior might well cause lingering tension between those neighbors and your host.

If you’re going to act a certain way you’re money just isn’t worth it!

99.6% of the people who visit here are just awesome and it adds to our community when they do. After all have fancy restaurants, a dance hall, lifeguards on the beach and deeper pockets because they do. If it weren’t for tourist money there are at least a few businesses I love year round that probably wouldn’t make it without those funds. My summer jobs around here often catered to tourists and paid for a lot of my undergrad. And all that accommodation money floats around the town more than once and does us all some good. I’d say we’re all grateful for it honestly.

There is this idea though that you are here, paying good money and so you deserve certain things on you vacation. While I might have had to put up with it when I worked in the industry it’s been 15 years since a tourist has given me or even a business I’ve worked for one red cent. If you’re going to come here disturb the peace, trespass, interfere with my job or make me feel uncomfortable in my town then you’re money just isn’t worth it to me! The places to stay here often sell out so if you didn’t come someone else will to take your place. Most of us don’t want to be thought of badly on vacation or not but if you travel and act like a tool that’s exactly what’s happening!

Have you ever stopped to consider that you’re one big night on vacation plays out over and over again for the people around you? What do you do before a trip to make sure you’re not pissing off the locals? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen a tourist do? Leave it in the comments below!

One thought on “How NOT to Tourist

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  1. I hear you! Tasmania relies heavily on tourism during the summer. The main city (Hobart) and the regular touristy country towns and attractions can be HEAVING with tourists fresh off the plane or cruise ship. I know it’s good for the local economy, but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually worth it!

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