Living in a Tourist Town

For the last eight years I have lived in a few popular tourist towns in Texas; Galveston, Corpus Christi and Austin. Living somewhere people choose to spend their vacation time is rewarding but also eye opening, offering a glimpse into human nature and the concerning lack of respect for someone else’s home shown by some tourists. In the wake of a record breaking Spring Break here in Galveston, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about the highs and lows of living in a tourist town.

Corpus Dallas Aerial

Thanks Dallas McMahon for this epic photo of Corpus. Click the photo to check out more of his work

Living in a popular destination means living near popular attractions such as beaches, mountains, historical sites, night life etc. Keeping life interesting by offering plenty of excitement in your own backyard. (Post about a staycation in Galveston coming soon!) For a traveler like myself living in a tourist town keeps some of the buzz of travel alive at home. I have the opportunity to meet new people everyday and learn about places and cultures and share my story with others. A tourist destination is constantly in flux and usually far from mundane and boring. New people arrive everyday. New shops, restaurants and bars are always opening while others close, keeping options fresh and exciting.

Tourism is a lucrative industry and many tourist towns sustain a decent economy because of it. During high seasons there are plenty of jobs in the tourism and service industries. I work as a bartender at a beachside brewery giving me the opportunity to meet tons of new people everyday!



Calling a popular destination home isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. Cost of living can be very high and those working in the tourist industry must deal with income and employment fluctuations in the off seasons. During my travels in Costa Rica I spoke with quite a few locals who said their rent has sky-rocketed and eating at local restaurants has become unaffordable.

While droves of tourists are great for the economy the crowds can make everyday life for locals a bit aggravating. Throngs of people crowd popular, local hangouts, bars and restaurants slowing service and offsetting the local vibe. Traffic can become a nightmare making everyday routines and errands a hassle. Out of town surfers crowd line ups and get in the way of locals enjoying waves. Beaches are swarmed by tourists, leaving a disgusting display of disrespect in their wake.

Spring Break...

What would you say if someone visited your hometown and left it looking like this?

Spring Break Trampoline


Littering isn’t the only form of disrespect tourists can show. Many visitors on a getaway feel entitled and forget they are visiting someone’s home. As a bartender I have dealt with some very disrespectful people looking to have their every nit-picky desire met immediately with little regard or respect for me or other patrons. I have also heard outright rude remarks from tourists about locals and their home when something doesn’t meet their expectations. It is a privilege to experience a new place, a place many people call home. Always keep this in mind!

Through living in popular destinations I have gained perspective proven useful in my travels. I know what it is like to have a constant influx of tourists and travelers descend upon my home, crowd my favorite local places and leave trash on my beaches. So when I am abroad I have empathy and respect for locals. Here is a list of things to keep in mind and practice when visiting someone else’s home.

  • Treat your destination as you would treat your own hometown
  • Leave beaches and parks cleaner than you find them. The locals will appreciate it greatly
  • Respect service industry workers, we deal with a lot of tourists and admittedly run out of patience sometimes
  • If traveling to a destination to surf respect local surfers by:
    • Watching the line up for awhile and gaining an understanding of the pecking order before paddling out
    • Waiting your turn for waves. Don’t paddle out straight to the peak and start going for waves. Establish yourself in the line up first
    • Stay out of the way of locals, surfers are notoriously aggro towards out of towners in the water
    • If you are a beginner or novice surfer don’t paddle out where all the locals are surfing, find a less crowded spot
  • Learn a few phrases in the local language and use them! It will go a long way. Locals appreciate the attempt and will be much more accommodating
  • Attempt to assimilate to local customs and styles. This will make locals feel more comfortable with you and could lead to amazing opportunities and insider advice
  • If something isn’t as expected take a deep breath and roll with it, travel is all about change and adversity
  • Be aware of your surroundings and mindful of your behavior
  • Remember that everyone around you is not a tourist

This is by no means meant to be a rant against tourists. I am a tourist! (Although I prefer the term traveler). Tourism is essential to many economies. We love most tourists, we need them, they bring diversity and excitement to our homes and we want them to have the best experience possible while they’re here. But it is important to keep in mind when you travel you are visiting someone’s home. The place where they live, work eat, buy groceries, go to school, walk their dogs and go to church.

Beach trash meme

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2 thoughts on “Living in a Tourist Town

  1. Pete Fredriksen

    Nice article!
    I grew up in Galveston, and my high school job for three summers was as a City Beach cleaner. We reported at the City Lot downtown every morning at 5am, piled into our rusty municipal pick-ups and dump trucks to hit the beach by the butt crack of dawn to get a jump on the next hoard of beach-goers who would come daily to apply another layer of trash to our 32 miles of sand. Of course, this was in the 60’s (Pre-Earth Day) and the amount of garbage left by tourists was appalling and astounding!
    Most of the crew would “hand-pick” the beach, walking in a slow phalanx grabbing every beer can, soda bottle, and assorted piece of trash that the visitors apparently didn’t want to take back to Houston. (I know the tourists came from everywhere on the Mainland, but Houstonians were targeted for most of our ire.) They stuffed the trash into long plastic trash bags which when full they placed in (or more likely next to) the overflowing oil barrel style trash cans which dotted the beach like buttons on a long sandy jacket. Jimmie, a full-time city employee, would drive behind us with the Heil crusher dump truck, with two of the stronger boys (usually football players) given the job to empty the barrels into the rear loader and clean up the mess around them. I drove a smaller. more dilapidated dump truck with an ascending bed used for transporting the “pickers” and transporting anything odd (like a broken sailboat mast or wooden pallets) that couldn’t go in the crusher. In retrospect, probably the best job I ever had. I got to watch the sun come up over the Gulf every morning, felt and heard the small changes in the wind and waves that takes place during the early morning.
    And as a bonus I made $1.75 an hour and all the unopened beer cans we divied up at the end of the day!