While the official beginning of Summer is weeks away, in our nation's capital we don't need to look at the calendar to know when the season has shifted. The heat, humidity, and influx of tourists in recent weeks leave us with no doubt that Summer has arrived.
Beginning with the arrival of the first Cherry Blossoms and extending until the grand old oaks shed their leaves, planes, trains, and automobiles deliver throngs of visitors eager to experience history up close and witness democracy in action (or at least the buildings in which they imagine such things happen). From the historic White House and Capitol buildings to the beautiful memorials, monuments, and museums that line the National Mall, our city overflows with eager internationals, fanny-packed families, and wide-eyed interns.
D.C. locals grumble as crowds thicken and school and tour buses clog our already crowded roads. Exasperated worker bees scoff as middle schoolers from Middle America pause for selfies, blocking access to their workplaces. Long-time residents sigh as they are forced to navigate around public transportation neophytes who inevitably walk and stand on the wrong sides of the escalator.
I am not immune to my own flashes of frustration in these scenarios, but as I walk through the streets with my daughter, I am growing to love the guests in our city and the fresh perspective they offer. The enthusiasm of the gaggles who gather in front of the White House can be infectious. Their dozens of languages and accents provide a unique soundtrack to an otherwise unremarkable day. And overhearing an awestruck recounting of one's first visit to a memorial or museum reminds me what a blessing it is to be surrounded by such an immense array of history and culture.
Being a tourist isn't about visiting popular sites, it is a state of mind. To be a tourist is to take a break from our carefully crafted air of indifference and allow ourselves to be excited - even in awe. To be a tourist is to be enthusiastic, curious, and open to new experiences.
As the spaciousness of summer descends on D.C., I am declaring my intention to be a tourist. I am vowing to pause long enough to watch the sun rise over the monuments during an early morning run, stop and snap a picture of my daughter's favorite animal while strolling through the National Zoo, and appreciate the symbols that define our city.
You don't need to live in a popular travel destination to sprinkle some tourism into your summer. Go for a walk in a different neighborhood. Pack a picnic lunch and eat outside, where you can watch the world go by instead of staring at your computer screen. Stop to enjoy your morning cup of coffee sitting down at a cafe or on a park bench rather than on the run. Find a new way to enjoy the familiar sights and sounds that surround you. Give yourself time to pause and appreciate life.