Where we lived in Nebraska--before moving to Montana--would not be considered much of a tourist attraction . . . most of Nebraska is not considered to be a tourist attraction. That being said, we rarely--if ever--had to deal with tourists. Where we lived in Nebraska was pretty much off of the beaten path and, unless you lived there, you really had no reason to be traveling through those parts. Tourists were pretty non-existent; thus they were really of no issue . . . the old out of sight, out of mind thing.
Then we moved to Montana . . . the Last Best Place . . . and I discovered tourists. Montana is a beautiful state with a lot of attractions . . . mountains, lots of lakes, great fishing, hiking, camping, skiing, snowmobiling, nearly seventy micro-breweries, rodeos, and lots of wild critters that cannot be experienced anywhere else but in the great outdoors of Montana. Thus there are always a lot of non-residents coming into Montana to experience the good life of the state. They come to go hiking, skiing, hunting, snowmobiling, boating . . . pulling campers, trailers, boats . . . they drive slowly pulling all of that stuff down the highways . . . rubber-necking as they look at the mountains and for the wild things that stalk the land. They are a great nuisance to those of us who live in Montana. And, it seems as if they are everywhere!
Especially if you live anywhere close to a place that is a must to see and experience. Unfortunately I live in one such area. I must travel the same route that many tourists travel--all year round--to go to Yellowstone National Park . . . to go up the Beartooth Highway which begins just down the road from where I live . . . to go skiing at the Red Lodge Ski Resort . . . to go boating on the Cooney Dam (Montana's busiest lake) . . . to hike the mountains . . . to critter creep. They come and they come and they come. Travel is frustrating, if not nearly impossible nearly all year long as the tourists come invading the great state of Montana. There is a phrase they have for tourists in Montana . . . "Go home!"
Yet, as much as tourists make life miserable for those of us who live in Montana . . . we also know that they bring a big chunk of change to the state treasury, They are a necessary evil that lurks around the state to keep its residents on their toes and their mouth complaining. They are a frustration that must be lived with . . . but, that does not mean we will not complain or use sign language as we putt behind the slow moving fifth-wheel. As you probably imagine, I do not have much use for tourists . . . tourists are a nuance.
As I write this I have fallen down and I am not sure that I can get up. The wife and I are in Idaho . . . just south of West Yellowstone . . . on vacation for a couple of days. We do not consider ourselves to be tourists when it comes to Yellowstone and all that is associated with Yellowstone . . . we go there quite a bit and know all the ins and outs; but, this Idaho thing is all new to us. We know nothing about the area we are vacationing at . . . just that it is a part of the Yellowstone ecosystem . . . that it is right next door to Yellowstone . . . and, that we are pretty much fish out of water. Strangers in a strange land . . . a land that is foreign to us. We plod along the highways and roads . . . slowing down here and there . . . rubber-necking at the sights . . . getting lost . . . causing traffic jams. We have become tourists . . . makes me shudder to admit that fact, we are tourists. And, as tourists we have noticed that the locals (at least those we are not paying money to) have greeted us with phrases and sign language that is unrepeatable. Deja vu! Karma biting me in the ol' tourist butt!
I thought about that a lot while the wife was in the gas station asking directions numerous times as we were attempting to figure out where in the world we were and where we wanted to go. I thought about how odd it is that just by going a few miles beyond one's own stomping grounds . . . moving into unfamiliar territory . . . one becomes a tourist. It doesn't take much to make one a despicable tourist . . . complete with Bermuda shorts, "I'm with stupid" tee shirts, and a camera hung around one's neck. Oh, the cruelty of karma!
But, what I really thought was that the bottom line is that we are all tourists . . . we are all tourists just passing through . . . strangers in a strange land . . . trying to learn more about where we are and getting back home. From the day we are born, we are tourists doing exactly that . . . passing through the world and attempting to make the best of it. As each of us travels through life we are put into new places, new experiences . . . we meet new people . . . we see and experience life in new and different ways that we are not familiar with. Surprisingly, it is a part of the journey . . . a part of growing . . . a part of discovering ourselves.
Think about it . . . a tourist is a lot like a weed, a plant that is out of place. Whenever we stumble into or go charging into something unknown and new, we are tourists. Anytime that we join a new organization or get a new job, we are tourists. Anytime we are thrown into a situation or place that is unfamiliar, we are tourists. Anytime that we meet someone new and begin to attempt to get to know that person, we are tourists. When a crisis or illness befalls us, we are tourists. We are people who are unfamiliar . . . who are strangers in a strange land . . . attempting to get our footing and fit in with everyone else. We are tourists trying to find out way home.
Realizing this . . . well, realizing this, I need an attitude adjustment when it comes to tourists. I need to give them a break . . . being a little more patient . . . speak a little kinder . . . and, actually even make an attempt to be be more helpful as they explore a new place. That attitude adjustment is just when it comes to the hordes of invaders to the Big Sky Country, but also life in general . . . after all, we are all tourists in the journey of life.
The Bible speaks of such hospitality . . . welcoming the stranger into the community . . . assisting the outsider in his or her needs . . . walking with them until they are comfortable and adapted to this new place and time. An example of such hospitality was in the personhood of Jesus as he welcomed the stranger and outsider into the circle of family. Jesus liked tourists . . . so, maybe I should too.
So, I am going to change. I am going to learn to count to ten (or may to infinity and back) whenever I am stuck behind some slow moving recreational vehicle that bears a license plate other than from Montana. I am going to where mittens so that if I accidentally use inappropriate sign language no one else will see . . . how I explain mittens during the summer I will work on. I will unhook the horn on my car so that I cannot beep at the piddly pace that the tourist from California is not caught off guard as they rubber-neck the scenery I take for granted . . . yeah, I know, I will look silly banging on a steering wheel, but at least is won't seem hostile. I will attempt to be more welcoming . . . more hospitable. After all, after a few days on vacation in a strange land, I know what they are going through.
I still don't care much for tourists . . . but, I don't care much for hemorrhoids either. Yet, I need to learn to live with both. I guess I should make the best of it . . . after all, in the end, we are all in the same boat. We are just tourists trying to make the best of it. I just wish that they would all go somewhere besides Montana to be tourists . . . like, maybe Oklahoma.