Why are we flying all over the planet, spending loads of money and standing in our socks at airport security? What is it we want out of travel? Is it to take snapshots of ourselves in front of famous monuments, surrounded by other tourists? To eat unfamiliar food chosen from unintelligible menus? To earn frequent-flier miles?
No. It's to glimpse what life is like somewhere else. An opportunity to put ourselves in shoes that walk those cobblestoned streets every day, to get a sense what life would be like if we lived there, instead of here and to feel that we are part of a place that doesn't belong to us.
This is tourism. This is also what it means to be an expat, to live in a country not your own. But, as I state in my new book, The Expats: A Novel [Random House, $26.00], expats are there far too long--years, decades--to live like tourists. On the other hand, expats will never truly be locals; these are not your people, and never will be. You are a permanent--or indefinite--tourist.
Here, in the intersection of permanence with transience, are some lessons for the traveler seeking a more authentic experience.