On Authenticity

Whenever people ask us why they should take Vayable tours, we always talk about the idea of authenticity. Wikipedia defines authenticity as “the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.”

In the modern world “authenticity” can mean almost anything. It can mean identifying with “alternative” lifestyles and tastes; it can mean being effortlessly cool; it can mean being all natural without artificial flavors or packaging. Sometimes things trying hard to be “authentic” actually actually end up becoming laughably inauthentic. Things that mean anything actually end up meaning nothing.

To us, authenticity equates to a sense honesty – the things that people do in their daily lives, that they enjoy, when no one else is looking. Oftentimes, these are the things that are most telling, most beautiful. Take this royal cremation ceremony in Bali that our dear friend Michael was fortunate enough to participate in. From the chaotic ceremony itself to the onlookers quietly watching from the sides, you can see into the soul of the people and the culture.

We love seeing the eyes of professional tour guides light up when we explain the concept of Vayable. “You mean instead of the sights that everyone has in their list, I can show people what I like to do?” someone once said to me during a guide vouching interview. As travelers, we oftentimes don’t know what we want, and some of the best Vayable tours feature guides who do not compromise on what they show travelers because they know their city best.

When we go to a faraway place, we want to eat la comida típica, but much of the time restaurants that serve this type of food have huge placards on storefronts beckoning to tourists with their “authentic” fare. Every single time without fail, the low-key neighborhood haunt that’s been a local destination for generations will be much, much better. Explore the tapas scene in Barcelona with a local chef instead of going to some place with a flashy sign on La Rambla.

The tourism industry as a whole is really bad at figuring out what people want; take the prevalence of double-decker bus tours as evidence. So we challenge you to put your afternoon or day into the hands of someone else and trust them to show you their world. At most, you’ll have the time of your life. At the very least, you’ll gain a better understanding of the world around you.

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