Cartoon by Geoff Hassing
So this fella Matt Long wrote this piece titled, “Don’t be a Touron.”
Hand me my backpack, scepter, and crown. You might want to back up a little.
(adjusts crown, raises scepter which is really just a stick that happened to be nearby)
“By the power of Grayskull, I am the Great Touron King!”
The flashes of dozens of disposable cameras fill the sky.
That glow that you see radiating from me isn’t my aura of power. That’s just the sun reflecting off of my SPF 80 sunscreen.
My first published sentence was, “In the Land of Tourons I am the Great Touron King.” It appeared in the Key West City Paper in 2002. Each week for the following three years, I recounted my experiences in places that weren’t home; places that I didn’t always know how to act or where to go; places that I found new and creative ways to make myself look like a jackass.
Here’s Matt on Tourons:
The Urban Dictionary defines a Touron as “The derogatory term combines the words “Tourist” with “Moron” to describe any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity.”
Ultimately, a touron is a person who apparently hates to leave home, but for some reason has decided to spend coin and time to do just that. After a recent trip to New York, I was reminded of how awful these individuals can be and as a public service want to provide some tips on how not to be a touron, in the classical sense.
When traveling, it is vital to have at least a modicum of self-awareness. You are a visitor and you should comport yourself as a guest, not an invading army. Pay attention to what local people are doing, and then do that! Also be a smart traveler. No matter how much you try to blend in, you usually won’t.
Here is my definition of Touron:
1) A touron is one part eager tourist and one part well-meaning moron.
2) Faced with a deluge of new sites, smells, sounds, and behaviors, a tourist turns touron because of an enhanced curiosity and innocent unawareness. The farther behind we leave the familiar, the more touronic we become.
3) Matt Long
In his “Don’t be a Touron” piece Matt says he came across the term “Touron” when he was “a college student in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is inundated with millions of tourists every year. Of these millions, there is a not-so-insignificant percentage which may be described as being tourons.”
I came across the term in Key West while working as a dive instructor and taking thousands of tourists into an environment where they found new and creative ways to try to kill themselves. I would give the dive briefing, “Whatever you do, don’t swim over there where you see the waves breaking onto the reef,” and five minutes later a diver would emerge waving his arms as he was slowly pulverized into bloody coral powder. Then I would swim like hell over to him, keep him from dying, and drag his sorry scraped up butt off the reef.
Although I cussed at these people through my regulator on a regular basis, I never looked down on them. They were my people. I respected the fact that they were brave enough to enter a world in which they didn’t belong. And some of them REALLY didn’t belong there. But I didn’t belong either. You can’t travel through a more foreign environment than swimming along a reef at 60’ beneath the Atlantic with hammerheads, puffer fish, and spotted eagle rays.
This is how I feel about traveling in general. Whether you want to label yourself a tourist or a traveler, I could give a flying flipper about, but if you pack your bags and head out the door to somewhere in which you are a foreigner, you are my people. You are a Touron.
Like a SCUBA diver, you’ll likely stick out like a sore thumb. You won’t lug your tank around, but you’ll be hefting plenty of cultural baggage. You’ll do your best not to kick the coral or cultural norms, but no matter how much you try, you will on occasion.
This is the beauty of the word Touron. It tears downs all these “my traveling is better than your traveling arguments.” It embraces all our inherent faults as travelers and unites us in our love for travel.
I love that Matt travels the world. I’ve never met him, but I’m guessing he has loads of tales of how he’s looked like a jackass around the world.
I do. It’s pretty much required to be the Great Touron King.
And as the GTK I hereby dub Matt Long (adjusts crown – these Burger King crowns just don’t fit like they once did. Places stick on Matt’s left shoulder and then his right) Sir Matt Long, an honorary knight of the knights of the Touron Table.
(If you want to read my first published piece “The Land of Tourons” it’s below the cut)