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"You gotta feel it." Meet the kids who reject the convenience of holotourism for the sake of authenticity

February 10, 2063 - When I first see Eddie Westlake, he's sitting at a picnic table outside his Bangkok youth hostel, smoking an old-fashioned tobacco cigarette and nodding his head to whatever tune's blasting his plastic earbuds. "Ever listen to early 2000s pop?" he asks. "Super jaunty. Here." He pops one of the earbuds out, wipes it down on his t-shirt, and hands it to me... to stick in the physical ear behind my Faro Focus 6d.

For a while, we sit together this way, listening to archaic pip-pop as Sukhumvit Road comes to life. It's early here. And let me clarify: when I say here, I really mean HERE. This is not a virtual environment crafted to mimic the seedy exoticism that Bangkok evokes in so many western imaginations. I had to hop a vert to get here, and I will have to hop another to get back home.

Eddie is one of a growing number of young people rejecting the ubiquity of holotourism in favor of "hard travel." Every year--driven at least in part by a youth culture that prizes authenticity over convenience--a growing number of twentysomethings pack actual bags, board actual verts, and set off to explore distant destinations without the benefit of technological augmentation.

"You gotta feel it," says Eddie, gesturing vaguely to the scene before us: souvenir stands, tuk-tuks (self- and human-guided both), and open-air pad-thai stands, all of it thronged with young dudes and ladies affecting the same anachronistic style as Eddie. "Like, you know all this used to be underwater? I got a buddy out in Phuket, right? Spent two years rebuilding one of the temples out there. Is that the sort of experience you'd get through your Focus?"

Some part of me can't shake the feeling that Eddie's overtures toward "realness" are just an affectation, that he's no more than another dopey rich kid desperate to differentiate himself from his parents' (my) generation. But that doesn't mean he-[DATA CORRUPT]

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