Look at the image above. Not the most prepossessing image is it? But, what do you think it represents? Any ideas? For me, it reminds us as travellers that real life is everywhere when we travel.
It is actually the business plan of a young fashion designer who lives in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia’s capital city.
A lot of visitors to Mongolia are quick to dismiss Ulaanbaatar … keen to head out to the countryside where they feel ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ life takes place. There’s a current drive in tourism for a local, real or authentic experience. But, we’re fussy about what that local, real or authentic experience actually is. Many local people visit KFC (replace this with any fast food company name) and for many locals it’s a favourite family place to eat. So if it’s a favourite place to eat for a local does that mean we would see it as an authentic experience? Probably not. You see the challenge?
As visitors to a country, we often are so focused on getting the most authentic experience that we forget that ‘real’ life takes place all around us. That’s why I like this image. We need to start relaxing about the term authentic and the comparisons with other travellers to see who has had the most authentic experience. Instead, we should be open to experiences. By being open we’ll get a more rounded view and have a more real experience – not just a stereotype.