With so much travel literature and documentaries invading our lives, how can we be sure what the real secret to great travel is? Is there even such a thing? Maybe it’s in this list of five secrets to authentic travel. Then again, maybe it’s not.
1. Don’t fall for the “secret” ruse
This is the meanest trick in travel journalism. At the stroke of a pen an untouched beach goes from “secret” to “tourist destination”. Find your own secret place and don’t tell anyone. This is far more rewarding and can be great fun. When a friend asks where you’ve been, just smile knowingly. Never tell them. Never show them pictures. The one thing people hate more than seeing someone else’s travel pictures is not seeing them. It means The Joneses have no benchmark for their next trip. They’ll inevitably splurge on an outlandish trip in a vain attempt to out-do you, then show you hoards of pics. Endure it graciously, then thank them with the same knowing smile. It’ll kill them.
2. If something is punted as “authentic” question its authenticity
A Maasai in a t-shirt is, and always will be, an authentic Maasai. But an “authentic Maasai Village” is really an authentic tourist attraction. Chat to the Maasai in the t-shirt. He will probably teach you more about his culture than anyone. He might even invite you to his village. But keep it secret.
3. Travel to fewer places
“World travellers” know a little about a lot. You simply can’t see it all in one lifespan. Spend more time in fewer places and you’ll learn much more about the world. There’s a young chap, Lee Abbamonte, who claims to be the youngest American to travel to every country in the world. But he’s only scratched the surface. Check out his website.
One of my personal travel heros is Stu Cooper. On his Going Homeless Project Stu is travelling solo around South Africa. He’s been on the road for a year and it doesn’t look like he’s quitting. He knows more about his own country than most: the intricacies of the landscapes; the pulse of the national parks and wild creatures; the taste of water from multitude mountain streams and the culture and sense of humour of so many South Africans. That’s incredibly valuable. Check out his website.
4. Suffer a little
Rewarding travel isn’t easy, it’s fraught with frustration and uncertainty. But these are the journeys you’ll remember. Writer, Paul Theroux, is well-known for his travel books. He dives right into his destinations by taking public transport, not planning ahead and letting the situation dictate his course. If it’s all planned in advance; comfy and free of worries there wouldn’t be much of a story. “My happy holiday.” Who reads that besides your fifth grade teacher?
5. Don’t pay attention to subjective lists like this
Ignore the Top 10s, How Tos, Where Tos and Secrets. Who’s journey is it anyway, yours or mine? Perhaps refer to lists as a guide for places and things to avoid. If you follow a list there’s a good chance you’ll be following the hoards. So, when others zig, zag. When “This Summer’s Best Destinations!” are announced, go in winter. Or aim to experience something remarkable of your own, like finding a place you didn’t know existed or a flavour you never imagined you would taste. It makes it all worthwhile – It makes it yours. That’s authenticity.