Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stylistically Speaking

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An excerpt from my travelogue, April 2nd

"It is a bright gray afternoon in Paris, and I am perched quietly on a side street near Notre Dame, watching the people pass. This is not the city I had imagined; a world of quiet culture and detail. In part, the discrepancy comes from the tourists, who flock to the city center in droves. Not surprising I suppose, but then where isn’t touristic anymore? Can I find the authentic Paris, and for that matter, what is an authentic travel experience?"

This is an issue I dwell on: What does authentic travel entail? Is there even such a thing?

Well, first off, how do you define authenticity? If it’s “undisputed credibility” that we’re after, then every experience must be equally authentic, because each is a product of internal and external stimuli processed in the human brain. We take in signals. We react. We live. 

So although all experience is equally authentic, I find travel most rewarding when I get off the beaten track. Leave the guidebook behind, because the good stuff isn’t in there. The good stuff is in a fragmented conversation on the metro; it's in the dark swirl of cream and coffee, taken in some back alley cafe; it's in a day lost and found, far from home. 

Travel is an attempt to glimpse the reality of life somewhere else. For me, it’s about learning the character of a place, getting out of my comfort zone, and expanding the definition of normalcy. Challenge is implied and welcomed. It isn’t always comfy, and it shouldn't be.   


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