Welcome to “authentic” Nicaragua: a muse on inverted travel snobbery

“Oh, yar, everyone I met in Guatemala and Mexico said I’d love Nicaragua. I’ve been waiting for this a long time.” So rabbited the girl sat next to us on the bus to Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s just, you know…more authentic.” She replied, knowingly.

Well, no, actually, I didn’t know. More “authentic”? How is a country more or less authentic? Surely if it exists, it’s authentic. You can’t go imitating these things the way you can fake a pair of Ray-Bans. Unless you count Legoland.

What can she possibly have meant? Her comment reminded me of travellers who insist that you only see the ‘Real India’ by travelling twenty-third class on the trains there. Utter rubbish. Are they suggesting that Indians who can afford to travel in some comfort are less real, less truly Indian than those who have to sit three per wooden seat? That’s ridiculous; the modern, shiny, up-and-coming India is just as real and interesting as the sari-wearing, mob-beating, deeply religious, traditional India we all like to imagine.

By the same line of reasoning, is Milton Keynes any less “authentic” than Oxford? No. Just because it’s a hole doesn’t mean you won’t see ‘Real Britain’ there. It’s just a less charming side of the country, less appealing to tourists, and quite rightly so. I wonder if Miss Authentic would visit Milton Keynes for a more “authentic” impression of Britain. I highly doubt it.

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