Deep thoughts: comparing tourist and citizen views

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Currently I'm sitting in the villa my parents rented for the week in Tuscany. We are not in Siena, we are not in Colle di Val d'Elsa, we are not in Staggia, and we are not in Fontana.......we are in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of nowhere. And it is exactly where I want to be. It's quiet, it's quaint, and it's definitely Tuscan. After the whirlwind days we've been having traveling all over, relaxing here with a glass of wine is well-deserved.

I'm reaching the end of my time on the break between Italy and Greece. It's been lovely! Seeing my parents in itself is a stress reliever. I can trust them and be dependent on them, rather than making every little decision by myself--which can be so exhausting! Since I feel as though I could never see enough of Italy, staying here has been wonderful. I got to see a different side of Italy this week...away from the noise and rush of Rome. It's also been fun for me to take on the "tourist role" again. Going to a place for the first time, I don't feel bad about pulling out my camera or stopping in those touristy shops. It's interesting for me to compare the two roles. Since I've been in Rome for 2 months, I have seen the tourist attractions multiple times, but I've also seen some of the behind the scenes of Rome--the wounds, if you will. Time usually doesn't permit tourists to reach that level of immersion. Comparing the two sides teaches me about life. Seeing something as tourists gives us the innocent, surface level enjoyment we so often crave. A little part of my heart fills up after seeing the Colosseum or the David in person. Seeing something as citizens gives us a totally different perspective. I don't miss the billboards or politics or department stores at home (okay I miss Target...). Even in Rome, the poverty, graffiti, and garbage is everywhere.

Yet when I'm a tourist, I find myself cropping out the homeless person, the scaffolding, or the masses of people from my pictures. I have this idea in my head of exactly what it's supposed to look like, and if it doesn't, then I feel like my job as a tourist was not fulfilled. I think that my innate touristy feeling is not completely wiped out because as I study abroad, I feel this need present to the world how much better Europe is than America. But there's a disconnect. Maybe the real question is, "how do I capture the full essence of what I experience?" And maybe that's the question we grapple with our entire lives. How do I experience the fullness of life? 
I remember many times walking around Rome casually looking around to see a group of tourists pretending to be professional photographers. "What are they looking at?!" I wonder. I turn and see the Vatican at sunset, and my breath is taken; it's something I wouldn't see unless that annoying tour group found it worthwhile. For that I am eternally thankful. I feel as though I have new eyes now.

Perhaps the answer to our lifelong search for beauty is found! Finding the balance between the tourist and the citizen gives us the eyes that see the fullest picture of beauty.That tourist perspective is necessary to see the beauty as a citizen. "I would never see such a sight back in Minnesota!" I think. Sure, I don't see the Vatican in Minnesota. But there is beauty to be found. Everywhere. Yet being the citizen, I see what the people and the culture and the wounds are like, which is very important. Having the postcard version of life doesn't teach us anything (and would be very boring)! Of course being both a tourist and citizen is easier said than done. Maybe a more practical idea would be executed in two different ways. As a citizen, look around with new eyes. Find the beauty and the uniqueness of your place, good and bad. As a tourist, soak up the culture of the place and fit it into your worldview. Don't be selective and don't simply fill your expectations. In such a way, beauty in life can be experienced perfectly. :)

So, if you've made it this far, congrats! You've made it through Katelyn's emotional, thought-provoking (hopefully) rant of the day. And it turns out that I did not talk about my week-long break at all yet. So....I will save that for another blog post. Tootles for now!

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