One of the most sought-after gems of travelling is the opportunity to live as the locals live without the pretence of being singled out as a tourist. Travellers want a “real” experience. But the definition of “real” is rather subjective.
In the Traveller section of The Age The Backpacker told the story of travelling with other tourists to Taiwan and having the experience of sitting down to eat Taiwanese food in a Taiwanese restaurant. Yet the feeling of authenticity seemed elusive.
In truth, authenticity for many travellers amounts to little more than the manifestation of their own preconceived expectations of what a real, authentic experience should look like. It does not matter whether the traveller is right or wrong, only that he or she is satisfied with the outcome of the experience.
Because expectations are subjective and mainly the product of one’s own imagination, “real” experiences are what the travellers say they are. Whether authentic or not.