Saturday, February 11, 2017

Being a tourist in your own country

"Really?!" The young German man exclaimed when I replied to his question of "where are you from?", with "here - NZ - I live in Dunedin actually".
"Why do you come to the Catlins then?" he added to his initial question; "because I haven't really visited it properly and I want to really see it" I responded.
He looked puzzled. "I don't usually see any Kiwi's staying at these back-packers" he said, "it's a little bit strange for me".
I thought about this concept. The domain of tourism being privileged for those who visit from overseas. They view our country and its beauty through a tourists "gaze" and I could grasp how the notion of a Kiwi participating in this gaze may seem somewhat odd. But there I was, in a back-packers in the remote Catlins area, being a "tourist".  I had all the right "equipment"; I had my camera; my sleeping bag; my walking shoes; my back-pack; I had my gaze
Most of all I had my curiosity. 
For me, taking small weekend jaunts away from my normal weekday routine (of being a teacher), was all about curiosity. I believe that when we stop being curious, we stop growing; we stop questioning; we stop expanding ourselves; we stop looking and most of all we stop seeing.  When these things cease to fuel our being, we stop living. 
So it would appear - on the surface - to a young German tourist, that I (like him), was from the outside looking in; that I flew to New Zealand to cram in as much as I could in a short space of time. I in fact have years ahead of me to luxuriate in being a tourist in my own country. I can choose an area I would like to know more about within reasonable driving distance from where I live, and I can go there and be a tourist for a few days. I can experience that area through the tourists gaze, through the lens of my camera; from under my feet. I can satisfy my curiosity again - until the next time I can be a tourist in my own country.