Lonely Planet Writer

76-Second Travel Show: 'Harry Potter & the Search for Authenticity'

In his recent book Authenticity Hoax, Andrew Potter makes a few pot shots at authenticity-hunters -- in writing, in art, in marketing, in grocery stores, and yes, in travel. I agreed with some of what he wrote, but felt he fell short on travel.

Pulling out extreme versions of tourism -- like taking kitschy communist tours of Stalin World (in Southern Lithuania) or Trabi tours of commie sites you're supposed to laugh at -- comes at the expense of less fabricated ones absent from the discussion. If Asen in Bulgaria offers you a look at his two-cycle Trabi engine (no jokes), offers a ride, then deadpans that rats actually eat the Trabant shell (apparently true), is it as 'inauthentic' as a South Pacific dancer performing traditional dance because 'culture is what we do for tourists?'

I think there's more to it than that. Potter likens travel as a 'quest for difference,' and the more weird or exotic or foreign, the better. Not in my experience. Travel is found there, of course, but a lot closer too.

I attended the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando recently, and New York's feverishly delirious travel-blog-orama TBEX, and wondered if my experience (at least) amongst Potter Pilgrims so enraptured by what they saw would count as something as 'authentic' or not?

Whatever we end up calling that, it was fun.