When planning a trip abroad, I’m always faced with some kind of philosophical question. What is it I want to see, to visit, to taste? Wat is it I want to share with my husband or friends and what is it that I want to do on my own? Why does one travel? Is it a luxury pastime? Some kind of self-actualisation combined when faced with sweet boredom? Is it what you want to share on Instagram, in these day where it’s so easy to do things that define you, that say something about you, or even worse, don’t say anything about you, but more about others and how you are affected by what others think?
I know, you’re probably thinking I’m overthinking it. Most of us, or so I presume, are expected to be charmed by authentic local experiences. It’s the selfie with a beautiful Geisha in Japan. The view off the Empire State Building. But is La Rambla still Barcelona?
Even by Googling ‘Barcelona off the beaten tourist track’, you will find articles and reviews written about a year ago that tell you “this tapas place is not yet flooded by tourists”, only to be disappointed that the article itself caused it to be even more popular – and thus no longer has the ‘authentic’ vibe.
Tripadvisor and other tourist sites alike have become Western guides that take away much of the spontaneity of traveling. Yet, I have to admit, I did enjoy the luxury of finding a healthy lunch option in Valletta, Malta. All it took was 3 minutes of WIFI and a look on the map and I was eating a salmon quinoa salad with avocado. Pretty sure that’s not a local dish, but they topped it with artichokes and sweet tomatoes filled with Maltese sunshine.
And sometimes, it’s the authentic human similarities that provoke the charm I’m looking for. Waiters on a cigarette break. Teenagers, waiting in lazy bags in the hall of a Contemporary Art Museum, bored and heavily focused on their smartphones. Hipsters stores, skateboarders. Bus drivers mumbling. Acquaintances acknowledging each other in the street. Like fusion cuisine, travel itself often has a fusion vibe.
Tapas in Brussels, Waffles in New York. Same same, but different.