Walking around my neighbourhood yesterday morning in search of a bakery, I made a point of taking my time and stopping to explore as soon as anything caught my interest without questioning, sometimes turning around on my heels and going back after I had already passed, rather than rushing by. So much of the time in Vancouver I am in a rush. I am not one of those organized, punctual people, if they exist. I may not be German after all.
For most of my life, I have been so goal-oriented that I tend to zip towards where I’m going without noticing what’s around me. But here in Berlin, I walk more slowly, and I stop when something catches my eye. The Berlin residents on their way to and from work seem to be breathing impatiently down my neck when they are stuck behind me in a narrow passage. In my normal life, most people walk too slowly for my liking too. But this is my chance to enjoy process rather than focus on results all the time.
Even that giant to-do-while-in-Berlin-list is entirely optional. It’s not about checking things off. I am perfectly happy exploring the few blocks in my neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg. The slower I move, the more I look, the more I see, the more I get out of it.
When you go to Paris for the first time, you feel a great need to visit the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. I did. The second and third time I went to Paris, I went with other people who hadn’t been to Paris yet, so I went back to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. My fourth time in Paris (I grew up in Germany, so Paris was not that far away), I finally allowed myself to get lost in the streets or sit in the coffee shops watching people go by. It was great to not have to “do” the Eiffel Tower.
The most meaningful tourism is making your own discoveries rather than being spoonfed the official version.