A lot of people tend to look for an authentic trip. I have to admit, I am one of those. I write off entire countries or cities for being “too touristy”.
Nowadays with the greatly increased tourism it’s getting harder and harder to find areas that are still authentic. Over the years I’ve been to several places that were still pretty unknown when I visited. Unfortunately mass tourism destroys all the authenticity. Like Machu Picchu in Peru. I just heard that they take turns to visit the ruins so it will not be over-crowded. How about the long-necks in Burma. Some women have decided to abandon it, choosing a more modern style. Some continue to wear the rings, not because of any dedication to the tradition, but for pragmatic, commercial reasons instead.
My ultimate authentic experience would mean going to places where I would be the only foreigner, I wouldn’t be seen dead amongst loads of annoying tourist who are taking over the entire place by being loud and obnoxious. I rather think of myself as a foreigner than as a tourist. I get a kick out of it when people ask me for directions, of course this makes it a lot harder when I am the only ‘white’ around.
My favourite holiday memories are the times I’ve done a bit of exploring on my own. There’s so much joy in hiring a bike, catching the local bus or just wondering around in out-of-the-way towns and villages where day to day life still goes on as normal. I’m glad I had this opportunity, but it also made me realized that my traveling to rural areas harmed the authenticity of these places. It made me decide to quit backpacking to these rural areas.
Two years ago I went on my first home swap. These swaps and also staying with friends give me the opportunity to still experience a bit of the day to day life. This year I returned to Kansas after 30 years. It’s like time stood still. Just like back in ’87 I did not expect to find any cowboys in Kansas. Gracefully the cowboy culture is still alive and kick’n. I’ve been privileged to enjoy a fabulous stage show by the Prairie Rose Rangers, a true classic country band and to witness a rodeo at the Winfield Cowley County fair.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a second chance to participate in this authentic everyday life of Kansas. -By Bregje