Returning home to Amsterdam after a trip to Copenhagen, I ask myself: was I one of them? Was I one of those tourists my fellow denizens love to hate? My adoptive hometown has become growingly vociferous in its anti-tourism fervour. Attempts to curb some of the most insidious encroachments on its laid-back vibe have been successful: the beer cycles are out; cheese and waffle parlours are next in the line of fire. Over the years, I have redrawn the map of ‘places I avoid on a Saturday’, steering clear of bottlenecks and much frustration. In the meanwhile, weekend guests seem to be popping up more frequently in the sleepy residential neighbourhood where I live.
So as I sat sipping coffee in a small café, hidden away in a basement in Christianshavn in Copenhagen, watching a family get turned away for lack of space, it hit me. Where does the boundary between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ tourist lie? Where does my experience fall within this spectrum? Should I not travel at all? In contemplating these questions, I was reminded of the expression ‘You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic’. Cities that are choking under the weight of tourism have come up with new strategies to diffuse tourists – Venice for instance has called its sustainable tourism plans ‘detourism‘. A way of detoxing the problem areas and stimulating curiosity for more unusual itineraries in the city. I pride myself on being as a detourist-tourist. My tourism experiences feel unique to me and my to interests. I would claim to pursue the authentic, the low-key, the non-commercial. Until I look around and realise others have made the same choice.