Chasing Authenticity

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  12.18.05 | 3:13 PM ET

The travel essay returns to the pages of the New York Times today, with Matt Gross writing about the search for authentic travel experiences. Sure, it’s been done before, but Gross frames the quest against a recent wave of ironic and inventive books about travel: Joel Henry’s Guide to Experimental Travel, Dave Eggers’s novel You Shall Know Our Velocity and the guidebook to a non-existent nation, Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring. It’s an interesting read.

Gross and his “hipster friends” are chasing “authenticity, albeit through irony,” across the globe, and the books are a source of inspiration. 

It’s not that we don’t enjoy the Louvre or the pyramids, but that we seek to make our memories elsewhere. We trade stories not about white sand but about red tape. We read local papers not for news of home but for, say, a story about a teenage girl killed in a swordfight at a wedding. And - surprise! - we love “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” whose “America (the Book)” was the “Phaic Tan” version of a high school civics text. Call us jaded, but when we look at what un-self-conscious tourism has wrought - the uprooting of local populations, the homogenization of world culture - is it any wonder we’re searching for new ways to travel?

Related on World Hum
* Joel Henry: The Dean of Experimental Travel
* Eggers on Fiction and Travel and Climbing Kilimanjaro
* Molvania in the News
* Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry

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