Like in any big city, it can be easy for tourists in Amsterdam to fall into the ‘traps’ – to be filtered into seeing the same sights and doing the same things that have been prescribed to them and to the millions of tourists who preceded them. The famous American play-write, Don Delillo, once wrote that ‘to be a tourist is to escape accountability…you’re expected to be stupid…(to) walk around dazed, squinting into fold-out maps.’
Delillo obviously never met Niels Visker and Tjerk Feitsma, and he definitely never heard of their idea – Tourist Save the World.This brand new Amsterdam tour company very well may be the breath of fresh air so desperately needed by tourism in Amsterdam and, indeed, the world. And it is such a simple and brilliant idea, wrapped up in one simple expression: ‘Good-deed tourism’.
If you want to experience the true nature of a place, especially one as dynamic as Amsterdam, you’re not going to find it by walking blind through the Red Light District, sitting stoned in a coffee-shop, or freaking out on a bicycle as locals angrily ring their bells at you. You’re going to discover Amsterdam’s nature by becoming involved – with the people,the places and the social interactions that form the heart of the city. This opportunity is what Visker and Feitsma have created. They believe that tourists can play a much more vital role than simply bringing money into a city, and that in fact anybody can participate in making the city a better place. You can go on a tour, in which you will see the city and learn about the usual necessities – history, culture and more – but you’ll also be able to become involved in various socially-minded projects. In their own words, ‘Amsterdam is an inspiring playground for people to contribute to society’ and you can make this contribution by participating in either a bicycle or walking tour.
Each group and tour will be presented with a various range of activities to do, as well as the necessary tools for doing them. You could be sent to Vondel Park to do some ‘Guerrilla Gardening’ – covertly bringing a little extra happiness into peoples’ lives by planting flowers, or laying the foundations for next year’s tulips. You could find yourself giving out mandarins to strangers, just to put a smile on their faces – and yours. Maybe your mission will be to engage with public servants, and tell them what a great job they are doing. At the same time, you will find yourself in places around the town which, quite frankly, you would not find otherwise.
The brilliance of the idea lies in its simplicity – to make the world a better place, by contributing to the society that you are visiting. So if you’re tired with the same old tourism tread-mill, and fed up with the feeling of walking around dazed, squinting into a map, Tourist save the world might just be the way to save tourism, and save the world at the same time.
PHOTOS: TOURISTS SAVE THE WORLD