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Has Authentic Travel Become a Status Symbol?

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Many travelers today are looking for authentic travel? What is causing this desire for authenticity? What is authentic travel? Could it actually exist in our increasingly “packaged” world?

A recent WorldHum interview with author, Andrew Potter of The Authenticity Hoax attempted to answer some of these questions. In Potter’s book, he argues that “our society’s pursuit of authenticity is misguided; it weakens our communities and relationships, and leads to a “disguised form of status-seeking.”

In defining authenticity, Potter states that people generally invoke “a vocabulary that talks about things and experiences and people and places that are either a refuge from the modern world or in tension with it, or in opposition to it, or in some way antithetical to the modern world.”

He agrees that authentic travel experiences exist, but they are few and costly. So authentic travel becomes a luxury good. Potter believes that “the search for authenticity is the defining trait of contemporary urban North America” and is most prominent in certain socioeconomic, educated class. While there are degrees of authenticity, as experiences become more authentic, so do the prices attached to them. Ultimately, the most authentic experience is something that nobody can actually buy at all. Now, is that the ultimate status symbol?


Post by Nate Coburn

photo credit: stig nygaard


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One Comment »

  • Shannon said:

    Sure it’s the ultimate status symbol is you buy Mr. Potter’s thesis. I don’t. Authenticity is a state of being. One can have an authentic vacation anywhere – even in the middle of a tourist trap – as long as the trip is a genuine expression of the person’s core being. Authenticity is about not denying who we are as people; thus, if one is a Disney kind of person a trip to Disney World would be an authentic vacation. If one is concerned with looking authentic and takes a trek to timbuktu, that destination, while exotic and not part of the modern world, does not ensure the trip is an authentic one. It goes to motive.

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