I cemented my love of travel at an early age. I love looking up the dos and don’ts of a being in certain country as well as the country’s customs. I’ve had the chance to travel to many cool places like Ecuador, China and Spain, however in these countries I felt like I was walking around with a big neon sign over my head flashing the word “tourist” for everyone to see despite my best attempts at blending in.
While studying abroad in Madrid for a semester I tried my hardest to ditch the typical “American” stereotypes. I carried a purse instead of a backpack, wore boots and flats instead of sneakers and tried to speak Spanish with everyone. I didn’t even bring a pair of sweatpants with me. However, much to my dismay, no one seemed to notice the effort I took. This was abundantly clear one day on the bus when someone bumped into me and quickly said “disculpe” then turned around to look at me and then said “sorry”.
While studying abroad in Madrid I learned to accept that I would stand out, so I was very excited to take a weekend trip to London because I hoped that being in London would allow me a break from constantly looking like a tourist.
I brought my favorite – more stylish – clothes in the hopes of looking more like a Londoner. However, I tend to gravitate towards colorful clothes rather than the stereotypical dark colors of British fashion, so I thought that I was at a bit of a disadvantage. I was self-conscious of wearing bright colors, but I wasn’t ready to go out and buy new, more monotone clothing. In the end I decided to pack my bag and hope for the best.
I landed in London for the first time in mid-February, so it was cold. I put on my bright blue jacket and hot pink scarf while waiting impatiently to get off the plane and began to think about my plans for my time in London. Suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by a fellow passenger asking: “you’re not from here, are you?” I was startled because I hadn’t even opened my mouth to say a word in my definitely-not-British accent. When I looked startled he commented that it was my blue coat that had betrayed me.
I had flown to London excited about taking a break from constantly standing out while in Madrid, however I hadn’t even stepped foot on British soil before my hopes were shattered. Thankfully my disappointment didn’t last too long because I was reunited with my family and didn’t care as much about blending in. Although, I did end up ditching my blue coat for part of the time to wear a more stylish grey felt coat that I had brought in order to feel a little bit more “European.”
A few years later I returned to London not to visit, but as a student undertaking a degree program. With me in my luggage was the same blue coat that I had worn that day on the plane. However, this time I wore it, and the rest of my brightly colored wardrobe without a second thought. I have learned that London is a very diverse city, so being confident in who I am and what I wear is more important than worrying about standing out. Besides, there will probably be someone else on the street dressed in more eye-catching garb anyways.