What is Authentic Travel?

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It is a pretty standard thing to visit Borobudur at sunrise, avoiding the crowd and being treated to a stunning natural light show. When I visited Borobudur it was in the middle of the day when the crowds were at their worst. Rather than spoiling the experience, that crowd of people turned visiting a beautiful […]

Monday September 13 2010

5 comments


It is a pretty standard thing to visit Borobudur at sunrise, avoiding the crowd and being treated to a stunning natural light show. When I visited Borobudur it was in the middle of the day when the crowds were at their worst. Rather than spoiling the experience, that crowd of people turned visiting a beautiful monument into a day I will never forget and something I’ve not experienced anywhere else. Most all of them were Indonesians, schoolkids and families who had travelled from West Java and Sumatra and many of them were as interested in saying hello as they were in the heritage. Their friendliess and enthusiasm towards the 3 or 4 westerners who braved the midday heat put a huge smile on all of our faces.

Who gets the more authentic experience? The person with their picture postcard photos or the one who interacted with the crowd? That is a loaded question.

There is another experience I will never forget and that was watching the sunset over the forests at Angkor from the temple of Pre Rup, the solitude and beauty of it was the stuff that makes you take a deep breath and realise you are alive.

Same, Same...

...But Different

Granted my experience at Boro’ might have been very different if most of the other tourists were not Indonesians but to me it is a pointless to compare, not because it would have been different but because that’s not what happened, I don’t care what might have been.

Maybe authentic travel is more than just what you experience, maybe it’s accepting and appreciating travel experiences as they are and throwing away your expectations, just saying to yourself “it is what it is”. Authenticity isn’t how things should be, it is how things are. The idea of Authentic or “Real” Travel is usually based on the former rather than the latter.

In the moment, that sense of right here right now that travelers search for, it doesn’t matter if things aren’t as you expected in fact you might even revel in that fact. When you set off on your trip do you want to see the world as it is or how you’ve been told it is? If you are looking for real travel, or the real (insert country here) look right in front of you, it is right there.

5 Comments

I totally agree with you and my experience was much the same as yours when we were at Borobudur in 2005. There was a huge group of students that kept staring at me and finally their leader came over and asked if they could have a photograph with me. So we all stood around taking photos and taking in the experience. Lots of fun! We were there late in the day so we got the photos with friendly people as well as setting sun shots with relatively few people. I always want to see the world as it really is at that moment in time and not the way I have been told to expect it.


MattNovember 23, 2010

I think another point I should have made is the people seem to confuse “Authentic” with “Traditional” of course they are related but they are not the same thing.

I’m sure riding an Elephant around Angkor is fun but really it is neither. That’s not putting it down as an activity, I’m all for fun and I’d do it myself (if someone else paid :p) and that is what it would be, fun and that is all really.


DanNovember 16, 2010

I think a key element of “authentic” travel (whatever that is) is to take the time to look around and experience wherever you are. By all means visit the main sight(s) but wander the streets, enjoy a streetside cafe, talk to other people, participate in a festival and awaken your senses to what is happening around you.


Mark HNovember 16, 2010

I think when you travel you need a few things.

1. Camera.
2 Good health, ro something close to it.
3. An open mind
and last but not least, a good book to read when you get bored from staring out of the window on those 12 hour flights.


jonathanfigaroOctober 13, 2010

True, when traveling you always need to be open to “the unexpected”. Sometimes it can be good, sometimes less pleasant, but trying to prevent it all the time makes traveling by all means less “authentic”!


AngelaSeptember 25, 2010

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