The American Tourist

Written by Winona Wardell
Art by Winona Wardell

I am embarrassed to be an American tourist. I do not want to be seen as similar to the representation of the United States. The representation that caused an Austrian boy to ask me “Have you ever been to a gun wedding in Las Vegas?” I looked at him, waiting for him to laugh. “I saw it on YouTube!” I try to not shrink into the wall behind me. 

Assimilating to the culture of the place that I am in has always been important to me. Standing out as the person with too many bags, a camera around their neck, and a fanny pack around their waist has always embarrassed me. This meant that when I traveled to Italy this summer I worried about my image immensely. I even started wearing dresses, more makeup, tanning, and walking faster. The things I see the graceful Italian women do. Although some things feel impossible, how can someone wear pants in 100 degree heat? It feels like an elite club and I am desperately trying to get in. I want to feel like I belong in a place that everyone admires on postcards, that contains both architecture wonders, and geographical beauties. A place filled with deeply rooted traditions dating back to the medieval period, and world class food. Yet somehow I always seem to stick out. 

In the beginning of my trip, fitting into Italian culture felt like a test, and as a person who can’t say no, I was up for the challenge. But as the trip progressed I was tired of feeling like I was being judged all the time, and the worst part was that I knew no one was judging me. The Italians didn’t care about some American girl, when I was one in millions. So I gave up on “the Italian look” and I carried around the camera I had bought just for this trip, and more importantly, I wore shorts. I learned that cultures are different and that’s part of the appeal to travel. I don’t have to become like another culture to appreciate and respect it.