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Millennials and Gen Z are taking big trips

Ihad just turned 9 when I discovered Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations." It wasn't like the other Travel Channel shows. Sure, the premise was straightforward: Bourdain traveled around the world to meet up with locals and try their cuisine. But instead of focusing on tourist hot spots and flashy, curated experiences, "No Reservations" was about traveling by the seat of your pants and getting as close to the local culture as any outsider could be allowed. I was an immediate disciple.

Travel shouldn't be about checking off items on a bucket list by sticking to sanitized excursions marketed to foreigners; it should introduce you to someone else's slice of life. On family trips to New York City, I cringed when my mother pulled out a paper map. "Everyone is going to know we aren't from here," I thought.

Though I grew less self-conscious over the years, that mentality remained. Others in my generation — I'm on the cusp between Gen Z and millennial — were on the same page, determined to seek out "authentic experiences." For years, people explored the world with the help of travel agents. But those services — sending you to places curated just for tourists — seemed to fly in the face of the Bourdainian ethos. Travel agents felt like vestiges of the preinternet world, like video-store clerks or pay phones, and I couldn't imagine ever needing them. What could they tell me that Reddit couldn't? Isn't it simpler to just book my own flights? Doing everything myself felt easier.

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