The Local Tourist

On July 19, I gifted Daniel with two tickets for a Boston Duck Boat tour. The next morning, we woke up to the news of the duck-boat accident in Missouri, and we were stunned. For months, we’d watched the massive boats — each one sporting a cheeky name like Beantown Betty and North End Norma — lumber through the streets of Boston and float on the Charles River as serenely as, well, ducks. For us, the thought of 17 people dying on one of those tours seemed incomprehensible.

Three weeks later, we arrived for our tour after vowing to not tell anyone what we were up to — we could hear the ensuing worrying from across the country. As fate would have it, we were scheduled to ride the Old Gloria. (For those who’ve been following this blog, you’ll remember that one of our kitties is named Gloria.) We decided it was a good omen.

Onboard the duck, our conDUCKtor (not making that up), dapperly dressed in a tuxedo even though it was 85 degrees and 85 percent humidity, polled the passengers on where they lived. When he came to Daniel and me, we told him we lived in Eastie, and then braced ourselves for the derision we felt was sure to come. In Sedona, if you told a tour guide or, worse, a timeshare hawker, that you lived in the VOC, the eye roll that followed told you everything you needed to know: A) Bullshit — you aren’t locals and B) If you really are locals, what in the world are you doing on a tour/in Uptown/out of your house/etc.?

But our tuxedoed duck captain didn’t flinch.

In fact, every passenger in the boat was from New England with the exception of a couple from Amsterdam. Not only did we not die on the tour, we had a blast. Our guide pointed out Whitey Bulger’s garage, the last tenement in Boston and one of the largest skate parks in the country. He told us how much it would cost to have a custom pair of Converse made at the Converse shop ($75) and the story of why the Boston Public Garden’s famous duck statues have doppelgangers in Russia. We quacked with abandon at other duck boats that passed by, and the kids onboard took turns steering once we entered the Charles. At the end of the 80-minute ride, we both agreed it was the best tour we’d experienced in Boston.

It was over oysters and Champagne in the North End that evening that we suddenly realized what we had become: local tourists.

You see, a strange thing happened when we moved to Boston a few months ago. Maybe it was the stress of moving across the country, leaving a town that informed most of our decisions for nearly 18 years or just driving 2,600 miles with two cats, but my urge to travel has been seriously dampened. Don’t get me wrong: We went to Montreal and New York in June, and we have a trip to Seattle planned next month. But slogging through airfare websites, pouring over endless hotel options (what do you mean you have to share a bathroom?), strategizing restaurant reservations and scheduling cat sitters currently fills me with more dread than excitement.

It’ll pass. My thirst for travel is innate. I’ve decided to just ride this wave and honor my instincts right now. (How very Sedona of me.)

There’s also a completely different explanation.

Just about every weekend since we’ve lived here has wound up feeling like an adventure. Not like a vacation mind you, but like we’ve seen and done and tasted and discovered something new. Isn’t that what travel is all about?

We’re calling ourselves local tourists. (Don’t tell me that we’re on a “staycation.” It’s too boujee.) And I don’t think we’re alone.

In a small town like Sedona, being caught on a Pink Jeep tour or shopping in Uptown was mildly embarrassing. Locals were cooler than that. But in a big city like Boston, no one knows if you’re a local or a tourist. Anonymity is freedom. The city also takes pride in its tourist attractions and in its city. Witness all of the locals sporting Boston T’s and ball caps. Locals in Sedona wouldn’t be caught dead in a Red Dirt T-shirt.

What does a local tourist do?

They hop on a Ghosts and Gravestones trolley one night after work and feel a little queasy when the tour takes them past the apartment of the Boston Strangler’s final victim. They drink a pint of Sam Adams Boston Lager at Cheers. They also order a Sam Adams at the Beantown Pub where they then raise their glass in the direction of the cemetery across the street where Samuel Adams is buried. They line up for cannolis at Mike’s Pastry AND Modern Pastry because, you know, it’s important to choose sides (Mike’s for the win). They stand with the sweaty masses on the Esplanade and watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, and meet those same sweaty masses at Revere Beach for the International Sand Sculpture Competition. A rosé-fueled cruise on a tall ship, lobster rolls at Neptune Oyster, an afternoon swimming in Thoreau’s Walden Pond, an Old Town Trolley Tour, Plymouth Rock, Harvard Square, kayaking the Charles River, the observation deck at the top of the Pru.

We tell each other we’re just discovering the best things to do in preparation for houseguests but the truth? We’re doing it because it’s fun.

I’d love to report that we’re spending all of our time hanging out with the cool kids, perched on metal bar stools drinking craft cocktails and sharing small plates. Or that I’ve discovered the best coffee roaster in town. I’d like to blog about the underground theater scene or the art gallery housed in a shipping container. There has been some of that. But more often than not, we’re playing tourist.

Yes, our weekends have been fuller in the past five months than in the past five years. A Sunday spent wearing pajamas and binge-watching Netflix might be nice. But I don’t know how long we’re going to be in Boston, and while I’m here, I don’t want to miss a thing. If the high prices and the average annual rainfall of 44 inches do drive us back to the West Coast, I want to pack my boxes knowing that I exhausted my time in New England.

And at the end of a day of sightseeing, we walk through the door of our apartment, drop our stuff on the kitchen counter, greet the kitties and crawl into our own beds, giddy with all we’ve learned and everything we’ve seen. Sure, I have those moments of where I miss our restaurant (you know, that place where everybody knows your name). And watching TV in your king-sized triple-sheeted hotel bed is pretty damn fun. But right now, I feel like I have the best of both worlds: New right in my own backyard.