I’ve heard alot of travellers talk about trying to find the ‘real’ [insert name of place]. 

“I’m heading off to find the real Asia”.

“I’m going on a tour to find the real Bangkok”.

I’ve often wondered what the word ‘real’ meant in this context.

Here are a few views….

View 1

Historic. Replace the word ‘real’ with ‘historic’ and you may get closer to the true meaning.

View 2

Non-touristy. This may be a little more accurate, a place that exists purely for the locals, not to put on a show for the tourists passing through.

View 3

‘Real’ is rural, it can’t happen in the big cities.

So what is real?

Let me offer up my opinion here.

What’s real is what’s right in front of your eyes.

New or old, touristy or local, urban or rural – this is reality.

In twenty years from now, travellers will be searching for what you’re seeing today. The ‘real’ experience of the future is the actual experience of today.

You will never find Jack Kerouac’s New York, Paul Theroux’s Vietnam or Ernest Hemingway’s Paris. These places are gone now – trapped like a fly in amber, preserved on paper for history.

But look at it this way – Kerouac, Theroux and Hemingway are never going to get to experience my Cape Town, or Prague or Vientiane. And if they did, would they be worried about what was ‘real’? No, they’d just be writing about what was right in front of them.

So, open up your eyes wide, and ask yourself what you’re seeing today.

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Stop searching for what’s ‘real’ and start seeing what’s real.

It’s right there, right now, right outside your door.

Go find it….