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Arriving in Queenstown, New Zealand

I’ve traveled a lot. I was two when my parents put me on a plane to spend the summer with my grandparents on the East Coast. Throughout my childhood, they continued to send me East every other summer. Other times, we bounced from Kaua’i to the other islands, to California, Canada. There was even a South Western road trip before I went to college. These were the days of Mom’s travel binder stuffed with printed MapQuest guides, printed flight and hotel confirmations. Pre-iPhone.

As an adult, I’ve done the spectrum of short business trips to week long vacations to even longer working and living situations across the country and abroad.

Below are some things that help me travel with confidence and ease because when we travel, that’s what we want. We want the process to be as painless as possible for our wallets and peace of mind. We want to get right into the experience.

These items help me do that*:

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Note: This post contains affiliate links*.

Lately, the word “authentic” as it applies to a travel experience has been tossed around like a backyard game of catch. It is used so casually and ubiquitously its definition is muddled.

Without context, the word takes on different meanings. An authentic experience could mean one that is traditional and as close as possible to the way people of a particular destination do (and have done) things.

It seems that the word also tends to be associated with the words “unique,” “different,” and “exclusive.”

On a similar note, there is also the argument that authenticity is shaped by individual experience and expectations, like this piece illustrates on CNN Travel.

In this post, I explore the concept of authenticity in travel with I Like Local founder Sanne Meijboom. I Like Local* is an online platform that pairs travelers with local experiences and opportunities for cultural exchange in destinations throughout Asia and Africa. The difference between I Like Local and other travel companies: Local guides receive 100% of the fees they ask for to provide the experience. I Like Local doesn’t charge local guides to participate on the platform.

More on that below, as well as Sanne’s thoughts on authenticity:

What does the word “authenticity” mean to you as it relates to travel?

For me authenticity means ‘true’, ‘pure’, ‘as it really is’. In the context of travel, authenticity is not always picture perfect: it comes with some level of going beyond your comfort zone. Yet it has so much capacity to transform people and make travel truly memorable and meaningful that leaving one’s comfort zone is totally worth it.

For me, one of those experiences was walking through Kibera, Africa’s largest slum located in Nairobi, Kenya. I took this walk with a local guide Diddy who grew up there. Our walk and Diddy’s story had a strong impact on me and gave me insight into a life I didn’t know: a world difficult to grasp when you grow up in a place with no shortage of anything.

In your experience, how has the word “authenticity” evolved over the years? Does it mean the same thing today as it did in the past?

Authenticity has become more important among travelers over the years. As more and more people had the opportunity to travel during the last 40 years, the tourism industry got very commercialized, and as a result authentic experiences became rare.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of tourist offering consists of standardized tours and cultural performances that are created specifically for tourists without any true interaction with the community. Hence it’s more common for travelers to come back after a trip realizing that they haven’t really seen the destination and feel tricked. A growing number of travelers started to feel this way, including myself.

Do you think there are misconceptions around authenticity, and if so what are they?

Not so much a misconception, but rather a concern is that while the push for authenticity is great, the word itself is becoming overused for marketing purposes and losing its true meaning (similar to “greenwashing” that became so widespread). Therefore, I think, as a traveler, it is important to be critical and dig a bit deeper to see what an experience really is about. If the description of an experience is too vague, ask the provider some extra questions to make sure what you think you are getting and what you are really getting are the same things.

What role does I Like Local play in authentic travel?

When I noticed a lack of authentic experiences during my own travels and realized that locals were getting the short end of the stick (seeing little benefit from the tourism dollars that primarily remain with larger international tourism entities, and instead seeing their environment negatively affected and prices going up), I wanted to create a brand that would stand for authentic experiences for travelers and a fair wage for local people. That’s how the idea for I Like Local was born, and that’s why our local hosts receive 100% of the money they ask for their experiences.

The important elements of creating authentic travel experiences are the personal touch and interaction with the locals and their community. That’s why we only select experiences that have a maximum of 6 people in a group. It’s also a requirement for us that travelers will be able to immerse into local life.

Now travelers can stay on an organic farm in Nepal, fish with a local fisherman in Sri Lanka or have a home dinner in Indonesia via our platform. They will immerse into a local culture while helping our local hosts in Asia and Africa generate income for their families.

 

*This post includes affiliate links for I Like Local. This means that if you book an experience from a link on this page, I Like Local gives me a small commission. 

image1 (1)Have you ever visited a place that you wish you could keep to yourself, like a secret? Like a truly, hidden gem? That’s how I felt when some friends and I completed the length of the Paiva Walkways in Northern Portugal earlier this summer.

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A mere glance will do you in. On every corner, there they are. In every cafe and restaurant , at all hours of the day their temptation never ceases. They expose themselves in full view of anyone who dares make eye contact; daily commuters, wandering tourists, weekend lollygaggers. They are shameless, and we are weak. No use fighting it, might as well give in.

Beneath clear glass domes they taunt, with their velvety chocolate frosting or custard filling just begging to be devoured alongside a café con leche.

Whether you’re attempting to crawl back home after an enormous menu del día or are on the hunt for the first meal of the day, they do not care. They pay absolutely no mind to your calorie-counting, low-carb, no-sugar, salad-eating ways.

They are shameless, and we are weak. No use fighting it, might as well give in.

TCP_Brunch and Cake BCN

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Photo: Alina Mendoza, ARoseTravels.com

When it comes to tacos, Southern California can’t be beat. From street corner food trucks, to that go-to shop with a generic sounding name and unflattering fluorescent lighting, and fancier establishments elevating a casual favorite, San Diego boasts what seems to be an endless number of tasty options.

To help wash it all down, an ice cold beer seem like the natural selection.

However, what if I told you that wine is as good of a pairing for tacos as beer? As a taco enthusiast and self-proclaimed dark beer gal, this subject is unfamiliar. On the other hand, the San Diego-based experts I spoke with below make it their job to navigate the world of wine pairings, and they’ve got the rundown for uncorking the best grapes to match your taco habit.

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Costeño, Colombia

The journey is always worth it. Even when your travel companion and you are the last ones to board a packed bus and must squeeze into the remaining available seats. Even when, an hour into the five hour journey you turn to each other and say, “Damn, we should have eaten lunch before we boarded.”

Even when you must then take another vehicle to the little pinpoint on your GPS in the black of night and a torrent of rain only to learn (with rising panic) that your destination is nowhere to be found.

Because things usually fall into place. How?

They fall into place when you realize there are planned rest breaks along the way where, for a few thousand pesos (a few bucks in American dollars) you can share a savory arepa and a bag of sliced, salted mango. When the bus finally arrives two hours later and you tumble into a cab with an incredibly patient driver who does not give up on finding your final destination.

They fall into place when you are swinging in a hammock on an old coconut farm, a dash away from the Caribbean. When the sticky sweet scent of your piña colada mingles with the salt air. Above, rolling clouds do their moody thing, while the sun does its sunset thing.

And there you are, sipping a piña colada on the Colombian coast.

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Saturated Saturday is a photo series highlighting some of my favorite images, with editing courtesy of the photo editing apps I like at the moment. These include: VSCO, Instagram, and A Color Story. Most photos taken with iPhone 6s.

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A lot of my experience with food festivals isn’t from the attendee perspective. Looking back, much of it comes from working behind the scenes in capacities that ensure the ticketed folks have a good time. In high school, I played in the jazz band while Taste of Hawaii attendees sampled their way through the best of Pacific Rim cuisine. During my tenure at a creative agency, I churned out avocado smoothies or corralling chefs and foodie personalities at intimate to large scale food events across the country.

But come next week, I am really looking forward to participating in one of the West’s largest food and wine festivals as an attendee. I’ll be puttering around the Grand Tasting on Saturday, 11/18 as part of the culminating activities of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival happening near the waterfront Downtown.

I’m particularly excited about bites and sips from the more than 60 San Diego based and cross-border restaurants, chefs and wineries. It’s been cloudy and chilly these days, which is uncharacteristic of our perpetually sunny corner of the country, so let’s hope for some status quo rays come next week.

The #SDBayFest as you’ll find on social media has been around for more than 10 years, and this year they’ve got some new events for those of us into the foodie scene, like:

  • A screening of the documentary, Fermented
  • Whisky + Wagyu at San Diego’s new steakhouse, Born & Raised
  • Sushi & Sake
    Cult Wines of Napa (which, if you are curious about how to help the community up North affected by the recent wildfires, the regional wine industry has banded together under the CA Wine Strong umbrella. Make a donation or learn about other ways to help at the link)

If you’ll be around America’s Finest City next week, or if you’re local to the area and are looking to indulge for the weekend, join me at the Grand Tasting on Saturday, 11/18. Snag a ticket at the fancy affiliate link the festival organizers provided me*: https://www.squadup.com/events/grand?aff=curious

Image uploaded from iOS (13)

See you there?

 

*This means I get a small percentage of ticket sales if you purchase tickets through my link. Special thank you in advance to #SDBayFest for inviting me to the Grand Tasting.
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