In Search of an Authentic Experience

I, along with a group of friends, decided to act like tourists for a day. Read a re-cap of our experience here.

The following is the ‘why’ and some thoughts behind our decision to do this.

Having lived in London most of our lives we wanted to experience what this city offers those who are in town simply to visit. We wondered about the people, places and things that visitors are told they must experience and whether or not these reflect the best experiences that the Forest City has to offer.

Trying all of the experiences that were suggested to us (aside from Tim Hortons) we kept and open mind to help us move throughout the day. We took the good with the bad.

We admit that our process was ultimately flawed; we had pre-conceived notions and personal biases that we tried to leave behind. We tried to do our best but it was hard. During that day, and looking back, we thought of all of the other places, some much better, others worse, that could have or should have been suggested to us. I can’t tell you the number of times I tried to persuade us not to go to Beer Town and how relived I was when we were greeted by a lineup.

We were four guys, playing the role of visitors driving into London from the 401 during the week of the Western Fair. Had we been a different demographic, arriving by bus or train and starting our tour downtown during the summer months this experience, most likely, would have unfolded very differently.

We learned that an experience will unfold based on those you connect with and the experiences that they themselves have had in their own city. If you ask for a recommendation about the city’s best coffee from someone who doesn’t fully appreciate it you’re bound to get a different suggestion than if you were to speak to someone who is a coffee aficionado. Speaking to transient populations such as students, carnival people and others who only reside in the city for shorter periods at a time will reveal very different experiences within a city than if you speak to long time residents who are leaders in their respective communities.

This was just one experience. Just like the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books that the four of us grew up with, trying to find the authentic experience, in any city, can be as varied and diverse as you let it be. Depending on your personal choices, the conversations with people you meet and your willingness to be exposed to new and sometimes awkward experiences, the experiences that you end up having in a given city can differ greatly each time you return.

We never once thought that we’d end up throughout our travels at a legion meeting a man named Snake, heading to Beer Town for a drink or finding ourselves looking at clothing in a Richmond Row shop that we never knew existed. This experience was an eye opener in many ways providing new and fresh perspectives for each of us.

While it may not have been what we expected it surely was an authentic London experience.