LIFE AS FICTION

PhD by Kevin Murray

Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, 1990

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Narrative Psych

Chapters

1. Introduction; 2. Narrative making sense; 3. Life manuals; 4. Life construction groups; 5. Travel space; 6. Travel and personal change; 7. Travel talk in context; 8. Narrative partitioning; References; A. Appendix

5 Travel space

I will attempt in the following two chapters to present the relevant substance of approximately 100 hours of talk about travel. In this chapter I attempt to delineate the variously ways in which the experience of being overseas is compared to life back at home. How this experience is then seen to alter one's life back home is the concern of Chapter Six. First, it is necessary to represent that space in which that change is seen as possible. This 'travel space' is characterised by the features which distinguish it from the space of normal life. Given the life constructions described in the previous chapter, one expects to find in travel talk the kinds of narrative partitioning which separate off from normal life a space in which a person can reflect on where they are.

5.1 Paradigms of travel

Before an examination of travel talk begins, I will present a brief outline of the non-practical forms of travel by Westerners.[1] This outline concentrates not on the demographic figures for travel, but on the ways in which it is seen to affect individuals. Travel statistics give little indication of whether a person travels for business or 'self-fulfilment'. However, an examination of narratives and histories reveals particular forms of travel that have emerged in the West. By orienting the examination of contemporary travel talk towards this historical background some important similarities and differences may emerge. This background has been constructed through the identification of three travel paradigms: the Thomson Indian vision quest; the Christian pilgrimage; and the adventure. These have been chosen before others, such as the merchant's journey, because they all entail some expectation of personal change. I will briefly outline their structure.

5.1.1 Vision quest and travel

Rite of passage is the ritual means by which personal change is communally recognised. Although it is a concept that can be applied to a large variety of rituals, much anthropological research assumes a consistency of structure. This is primarily based on van Gennep's (1960) analysis, which is concerned with the ritual structure that performs the basic functions of social life: to make a difference and to bring together ('...life itself means to separate and to be reunited.' [p.819]) His cross-cultural research demonstrates the presence of three phases in a wide variety of rites of passage: separation, transition and incorporation. The particular expression of these rites takes many forms, though van Gennep maintains that a change in social position is often identified with a 'territorial passage'. van Gennep's study is significant in indicating what appears to be a universal pattern in the way personal change is orchestrated by communities. However, the largely descriptive nature of his study does not provide an account of what these rites actually do.

In the structuralist theory of myth offered by Levi-Strauss (e.g., 1968), change is usually seen to be mediated by a force that comes from without. The structuralist emphasis on a cognitively ordered picture of the world is expressed in the problem offered by an individual who one day is different to what he or she was before; one resolution to this problem is to correlate this change with an exterior force. The inconsistencies involved in the same individual being a different person—growing into adulthood, dying, etc.—are resolved by attributing this change to a force outside the individual. In order to safeguard the normal world from instability this force is seen to be controlled through rituals. Levi-Strauss' account stresses the cognitive processes involved in rites of passage.

The role of rite of passage in mediating change is presented in a more functional mode by Turner (1977), who sees the liminal phase of the rite as breaking down differences between liminars in order for a new more appropriate social order to be created. Turner orients rite of passage less around the individual sense made of a potential contradiction and grants it the role of a dramatic display of values that are important to the collective functioning of a community.

Other theorists have also emphasised the dramatic role of rites of passage in reaffirming the power of dominant values. Sartre (1976) describes the act by which initiates affirm the social order they have been born into as 'the pledge'. This act demonstrates that the initiate has 'freely interiorised' the limits on his freedom. The idea here is that the community is shown to be reproduced by the acts of free individual agents, much as happens in the contemporary Western elections. Each individual, therefore, must be initiated into the secrets of that community. There has been much attention to this process in pre-modern societies (e.g., Eliade, 1975, and Tomas, 1988), but relatively little in contemporary settings.

In order to focus on travel as a modern initiation rite, I will present a well-documented example of traditional tribal practices and from this set up a series of correspondences in the contemporary setting. The example is the vision quest of the Thomson Indians.

The vision quest occurs in community of Thomson Indians, who live in the plateau region of Western Canada (see Pettit, 1946, Strauss, 1959, and Mead, 1964). In this rite of passage, pre-pubescent male adolescents prepare themselves for the rite by ordeals and fasting. After this preparation they go alone on a pilgrimage into the mountains. During this time they are reliant only upon themselves for survival. There is an expectation that during their ordeal, something significant will occur; most often this takes the form of a certain animal that figures in dreams. On return to their community they will give an account of the journey which will be interpreted by their father. This interpretation deals mostly with the significance to be attached to the boy's dreams: often an animal is designated as the boy's protector and a certain future path is predicted on this basis. Pettit describes the purpose of this rite to be the production of an: 'independent and self-confident personality with inner conviction'. One of the interesting aspects of this rite is that is it usually the 'young nobodies' who are most assiduous in their passage: the children granted powerful names at birth frequently avoid the passage altogether.

The vision quest is thus an act of personal transformation where a difference is established within a recognised code of differences. The passage itself is a specially privileged ground for showing images of fateful significance. What is dreamt in the course of surviving in the wilderness is given much greater significance than anything dreamt in normal life. Once the initiate's destiny is foretold in the dream, this is then subject to interpretation by the community at home. The meaning of the symbol is digested and the consequences for future decisions are outlined. Concomitant with this is a testing of the capacity to survive without assistance from others.

In the vision quest, change is revealed in both the unique conditions of an individual life and the general values attached to communal life. The vision quest allocates an individual identity in the boy which is seen as a product of a natural force that inhabits the space of the forest. And, at the same time, his survival in the forest demonstrates the power of self-reliance which applies to the active male members of the tribe in general.

The form of contemporary travel that would correspond with the vision quest consists of a journey from which the person returns with information that claims a particular identity. Partly this information concerns the success at 'testing' a capacity for self-reliance, but it also consists of more specific signs of personal destiny that were read overseas. In the paradigm of the vision quest, travel space contains events with special meaning for the personal life of the traveller.

5.1.2 Making the same: pilgrimage and tourism

In European civilization, the phenomenon of pilgrimage reached its peak in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Pilgrims from England travelled to Spain, France, Italy, and finally Jerusalem. The Catholic church often recommended the act of pilgrimage as a form of penitential expiation, sometimes guaranteeing future benefits in the afterlife.

The most direct aim of the pilgrimage was to reach a set of sacred sites. Along the way, though, pilgrims were encouraged to behave in a certain fashion. One behaviour was to 'read' the unfamiliar phenomena they encountered as evidence of Christian teaching. Pilgrims often carried guide books to instruct them how to interpret what they saw on their journey; for example, a hitherto unknown fruit, bananas, called 'apples of paradise', could be cut in half and reveal the sign of the crucifix. As with the paradigm of vision quest, therefore, the pilgrimage demonstrates official beliefs.

What are the similarities and differences between pilgrimage and rite of passage? Turner (Turner & Turner, 1978) was a theorist of both forms of personal change; his account of pilgrimage brings into question its relation to normal life. Why does a pilgrim risk hazard and suffer economic loss in order to go on a journey of no practical benefit? Turner attributes the act of pilgrimage to the desire for release from the 'sins and evils of the structural world', often in preparation for the afterlife.

There is a number of frames in which to place Turner's account. The frame offered by Turner is derived from his theory of community which functions in the alternate domains of official normal life (the structure of hierarchical differences between people) and unofficial carnival life (the anti-structure of a freely circulating communitas between people) (see page 123). Pilgrimage is located in the latter domain: it is seen to occur outside of the official hierarchy governed by competition over limited resources such as material goods.

In a manner comparable to van Gennep's universal account of rite of passage, Turner (1974) identifies certain elements of pilgrimage that form a pattern which is consistent across cultures. The various forms of pilgrimage share a common structure which involves four elements: a voluntary decision; a journey to a peripheral site; looking at objects; and reading into those objects traces of miraculous events from the past. In addition to these there are frequently encountered experiences. Pilgrims may experience a transformation, either in body or spirit, which grants them higher moral status. In meditation upon the heroic acts associated with a particular site, pilgrims may find narratives that inspire life back home. And communitas among pilgrims may often be experienced as demonstrating a oneness that exists between all people.

This theory of pilgrimage differs from both rite of passage in general and vision quest in particular. Unlike the rite of passage, the pilgrimage is a voluntary journey: the pilgrimage occurs outside of normal status change whereas rite of passage signals a change that is inevitable for all members of a particular category. Despite this difference, they both may be seen as setting up an experience of disorder in a way which demonstrates the dominant values of the social order. And unlike the vision quest, the pilgrimage does not normally entail a specific message directed towards the pilgrim which takes him or her on a different path to others: the pilgrimage is a journey where all travellers are supposedly brought together as equals before a greater glory.

Modern travel, as it might correspond with the pilgrimage, focuses on the possible expectation that the traveller is changed as a result of completing a journey. The journey is expected to take as its destination a site at which an object of some importance in history is to be witnessed; the goal of the journey is seeing.

The contemporary phenomenon of tourism is an obvious candidate for the pilgrimage model. MacCannell (1976) makes explicit reference to the spiritual dimension of tourism, particularly its emphasis on 'sacred sites'. A more detailed link is developed by Turner & Turner (1978), who compares the camaraderie of pilgrims with the 'anonymous crowds' on tourist beaches; each group is seen to be escaping from the hierarchical forms of normal life. The model of pilgrimage serves to focus on the collective symbols that embellish the tourist experience, in contrast to the competitive individualistic lives pursued in normal life.

Although in paradigmatic terms, pilgrimage is identified here as a act which encourages recognition of the sameness of people, no doubt there are differences that can emerge in the individual narratives of pilgrimage. The use of travel to make a difference for oneself is seen as more typical of the adventure narrative.

5.1.3 Making different: the adventure

A campaign of war is the most obvious instance of a form of travel that entails a difference between people. The belligerent partner to the pilgrimage is the crusade. Much of medieval culture was formed around the quest as the basic form of life. One of the ways this was achieved was through exempla, or paradigmatic narratives, supplied by religious orders. The Annale historian Duby (1988) notes the popularity in medieval times of the dialogues of Caesarius of Heisterbach. He describes these writings thus:

In all these anecdotes the hero is embarked upon an individual adventure, facing his trials alone and later engaging in dialogue, on the road perhaps but more commonly in a bedroom in the middle of the night, in silent retreat, with a friend or confidant, perhaps with an angel, a ghost, the Virgin, or even the demon tempter.

The trials are interpreted in terms of a drama of good and evil. And the quest is the means of demonstrating their power over the fate of one individual.

What most clearly distinguishes the adventure from rites of passage and pilgrimage is the emphasis on material gain. The marxist historian Nerlich (1987) provides an historical overview of the social use of adventure; he concentrates particularly on its appropriation by the middle classes. He ties its later popularity to the growth of colonial trade in seventeenth century Europe. According to Nerlich, the aristocratic genre of knightly romance was used to 'ennoble' this mercantile development. This was partly achieved by highlighting the miraculous elements of adventure narratives, which served to mystify the experience and grant the teller a charisma. In marxist terms, this ideology of adventure acted as a 'screen' between noble society and the social reality of exploitation.

In the contemporary context, the situation is analyzed by Bourdieu (1984) in remarkably similar terms. He allocates travel stories to the 'coffee-table' along with other 'screens to hide social reality'. Similarly, the 'aristocratic asceticism' associated with adventure is dismissed as merely a claim to distinction. Bourdieu uses the example of mountaineering:

...which, even more than rambling with its reserved paths [...] or cycle‑touring, with its Romanesque churches, offers for minimum economic costs the maximum distinction, distance, height, spiritual elevation, through the sense of simultaneously mastering one's own body and a nature inaccessible to the many. [p.309]

The physical hazard thus involved in certain travel pursuits is seen to reproduce the forms of distinction specific to an aristocratic habitus, and later appropriated by the bourgeoisie.

In England this form of travel had its parallel in the development of the 'grand tour', with its particular emphasis on the collection of useful information from abroad. In his 1597 essay 'Of Travel', Francis Bacon described its purpose as an 'education', where a traveller may return home to plant: 'some of the flowers of that he hath learned abroad into the customs of his own country'. This kind of travel acted as a resource for the colour and worldliness of the royal court. The historian Hibbert (1967) concludes that the main purpose of the grand tour was to supply the courts with people of adequate manners and scholarship. However, the absence of any obvious vocational purpose to the grand tour distinguishes it from the conventional adventure. In contemporary descriptions of the grand tour, the reader finds an emphasis that is not on 'taking', but on 'seeing' the world. However, by contrast with the pilgrimage, which reinforces prior belief, the grand tour defies previous knowledge. Samuel Johnson describes in 1786 the purpose of the grand tour: 'The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.' Writing on the grand tour, Nugent (cited Adams, 1983) claims that the effect of travel is '...to enrich the mind with knowledge, to rectify the judgement, to remove the prejudices of education, to compose the outward manner, and in a word, to form the complete gentleman'. And in an analysis of Mandeville's Travels, published in 1356, Howard (1980) claims that the description of natural religion in travel accounts made it possible for the Christian doctrine to seem as strange to orientals as their religion does to the West. Thus rather than reinforce collective values, the grand tour provides space in which the individual powers of reason can be asserted.

Nerlich (1987) identifies the emphasis on stripping of prejudices in travel as peculiar to the English. He contrasts the empiricist philosophy of Francis Bacon with the more reflective alternative of Descartes on the continent. So the French court writer La Bruyère could claim that travel was 'lessening' and criticise the English for their 'travel fever'. By contrast with the universalist claims of anthropologists for rites of passage and pilgrimage, the history of adventure demands consideration of differences in cultural developments. (The travel culture specific to this study is discussed in the following section 0.)

In very general terms, the differences that have emerged in these paradigms of travel can be characterised in relation to the object encountered while away. In the vision quest, that object is taken as a personal sign which is to guide the remainder of one's life. In a pilgrimage the seeing of that object transforms the traveller and reinforces the stories told before. Finally, in the adventure narrative, the goal of the traveller is to bring wealth back to the home world, which in the grand tour is in the form of information contrary to common opinion. In terms of personal change, pilgrimage is a paradigm of travel that is associated with the recognition of sameness between people; the other paradigms entail recognition of what makes people different. This is particularly the case in adventure, which silently indicates the distinction of the traveller.

In terms of how travel space is separated from normal life—its narrative partitioning—the paradigm of vision quest implies a travel space that is parallel to the real world, in which individuals are separated off from relations with others, and discover a fateful sign about themselves: they are not changed in the process, rather what makes them different is revealed to themselves and others. The narrative partitioning of pilgrimage also takes the individual into a space which is parallel to the real world, though the journey here is less likely to contain information of particular relevance to the traveller, rather there is an engagement with others outside of normal social roles in which a common identity between people is asserted. Travel as a parallel space is not found in the paradigm of adventure; here the traveller encounters what is different to the real world, and appropriates it to the order of the same, thus strengthening the social status of the traveller's group. One might expect that this trio of paradigms does not account for all the varieties of travel experience, particularly as they are related to particular historical conditions. The historical conditions particular to this study should therefore be considered.

5.2 The local significance of travel

In most cases, the travel paradigms which have been described involve a journey to a peripheral region of the world: the limits of civilized space (vision quest); where civilization began (pilgrimage); and other distant civilizations (adventure). In a European context, it is easy to link these journeys to the process of colonization, in which empires expand into ancient and new lands. In the context of this study, the point of view is reversed: here travellers look back from a land once colonized to the original homes in the northern hemisphere. Naturally, this reversal has been the subject of much analysis in Australian studies.

Horne (1984) claims that the European journey for an Australian is a kind of pilgrimage: Europe serves as a 'dreamland' to post-colonial cultures such as Australia which lack a set of convincing rituals to define who they are. According to Horne, this gap is filled in sightseeing through the 'museum' culture of Europe. The historian White (1987) extends this theme further in an analysis of the accounts of Australian soldiers sent to Europe in the First World War. He noted that the soldiers often described their experience as like being in a play:

One of the continuing threads in the history of Australian tourism is the sense of having entered literature in Europe, of seeing the imagination made real. At last the place names, the plants and the seasons correspond to art and poetry. For Australians in Europe, the distance between the observer and the observed is also the distance between reality and imagination, between the audience and the stage. Consider how often the tourist experience has been explained by comparisons with the theatre and cinema.

White's description of travel for Australians entails a particular form of narrative partitioning: normal reality is suspended and the traveller is found in a space that is closer to the ideal world of fiction than reality.

It is interesting to consider what forms of personal change emerged from this situation. This construction of Europe as the original reference for Australian culture fulfils the role assigned to the space of 'centre'. The anthropologist Geertz (1983) identifies the centre with displays that create the impression that this is from whence the order of things is determined:

It is these -‑ crowns and coronations, limousines and conferences -‑ that mark the centre as centre and give what goes on there its aura of being not merely important but in it own fashion connected with the way the world is built. [p.124]

This attitude towards a 'centre' lays open the possibility that travel from the periphery provides a means of discovering the dominant values of a European culture that are still active in Australian communities, just as a twelfth century pilgrim from Norwich would have been able to witness in the Middle East evidence of the acts of the martyrs from which the local Christian church was built.

This attribution of centrality to Europe is considered by some writers to be a particularly strong Australian theme. In an analysis of contemporary Australian fiction, Jose (1986), describes centre-seeking as a 'leitmotif in Australian culture' [p.314] One of those writers Jose refers to, David Malouf, describes the Australian perception of their place in the world:

In looking where we stand we have always taken our stance elsewhere, seen ourselves as being at the bottom right hand corner of things. ['The Age", 21/1/88]

Whether 'centre-seeking' is a unique trait of Anglo Australians or a general trait of peripheral communities is left open to question. Given this, the travel narratives of Australians are likely to focus on the experience of finding one's way to the centre of things.

5.3 Collection of travel talk

The question of what material to present in examining the use of travel in making sense of personal change is critical. Certain types of material carry with them assumptions about the object of investigation. The clinical interview favours the object of a deep unconscious meaning which is exposed by stripping away intentional structures associated with travel.[2] By contrast, a textual study of the 'superficial' media descriptions contained in travel brochures points to collective representations that stand outside individual points of view. The practice adopted thus far in this study has been to attempt to uncover readymade forms of making sense in everyday discourse. The assumption has been that personal change is orchestrated within the region of the conversation. This assumption is based on an understanding of personal change in terms of agency rather than control; such agency takes the form of winning a voice in conversation with others. One cannot achieve such change without the consent of others and therefore it must be presented in a public region rather than a private domain. Nor can such change be simply presented as the expression of group interests: it is the claim of an individual in a collective realm.

The focus of this study is thus on the domain where claims to agency are expected to be played out: the readymade forms of travel talk. This talk is expected to contain not simply reflections on the experience of difference in travel, but also the public claims to agency within the conversation. These claims can thus be examined according to the forms in which change is presented and the forces to which it is attributed.

Given this focus, the remaining methodological questions concern the choice of participants and the collection of travel talk.

5.3.1 Selection of participants

As with previous research (interviews with first-time marathon runners, Murray, 1985a), contributions were sought from individuals who were expected to be in the process of providing accounts of their actions. In this way, it is easier for the research to tap into a readymade flow of talk. Though it is likely that there will be some consciousness of the research situation which guides this talk, it is possible to aim at recovering a representative bracket of everyday discourse by down-playing the specific research focus.

This study aimed to acquire the participation of a group whose members would normally engage in overseas travel. The preponderance of young tertiary students involved in international journeys, as evidenced by the size of Student Travel businesses, made this group a suitable place to start. In order to gain a sense of the conversations in which its talk about travel is placed, this group was extended to the friends and families of the students interviewed.

Participants were recruited mainly by means of a poster that was placed in the Melbourne University Student Union and coffee shops around the university suburb; volunteers were also recruited from students waiting in Student Travel offices. The poster called for contributions from people who had experienced overseas travel; interviewees either offered themselves directly or where recommended by others hearing of the project. These initial contacts were used to extend the sample outside the university to the family and friends with whom travel experience was discussed.

In case the group of informants was too narrowly focused on the type of Arts student who is taking a year off from his or her degree to 'see the world', a specific attempt was made to recruit Medicine students,[3] for whom travel is a regular part of their degree, though for different reasons. Between their fifth and final years, Medicine students in Victoria are required to complete an elective, which entails ten weeks of practical work in a hospital different to their normal base of study. Taking one's elective overseas is quite a popular option, often augmented by a few weeks holiday either side. The official aim of this exercise is to extend the experience of the Medicine student beyond one specific setting. The elective in most cases provides students with the first opportunity in their course to make responsible decisions about a patient's health.

A total of 72 individuals contributed their travel talk to this study. Fifty-five of these were interviewed alone (in the case of five participants a follow-up interview was arranged to take place after a travel episode). Four occurred in groups of two, and thirteen in four larger groups. The 67 travellers of the study had an average age of 24.22 years (sd. 3.92); and the five parents interviewed had an average age of 59 (sd. 4.30).

5.3.2 Setting

To avoid the possible compliance of participants in producing a 'clinical' interview that would attempt to uncover hidden information about the self (see Foucault, 1981), the collection of travel talk was situated in a place where participants might feel relaxed. In most cases this was a café, tea room, or in the case of groups, one of the participant's homes.

The initial intention was to structure the interview according to the rules of the narrative interview set out by the German social methodologist, Schütze (see Wiederman, 1986). The main purpose of this method is to prioritise the initial description of the travel experience. This entails an opening prohibition on any questions that compel participants to stand back and theorise their experience. Therefore 'why' questions that demand a linking of events are avoided until the end of the interview.

Unfortunately, the narrative interview method had to be abandoned because of the tendency by participants to spontaneously dwell on the 'theoretical' dimension of travel. It became apparent early in the research that the travel talk which was seen as appropriate by informants did not include the unmediated descriptions anticipated by the narrative method; rather than simply describing what happened to them overseas, the informants tended to reflect on issues such as why people travel, whether it changes them, and particularly how one should best carry oneself while overseas. (In one interview this reached the point of providing the number of the bus one needed to catch to get to out of a certain Peruvian town.) Much of this talk could be considered advice for potential travellers. The counsel offered by informants is not surprising given the non-academic context of the interview. One might expect advice to be a kind of discourse which is pitched at the interests of the listener, whereas pure descriptions are more likely to be suitable for formally accountable situations, such as the research interview. Rather than discourage this by directing the participant to reveal more clearly exactly what happened to them overseas, it was felt that this advice should be considered part of the normal flow of travel talk.

The interviews began with the question: 'Tell me what happened?' No specific direction was given to the participant; the interviewer kept up the other end of the conversation as minimally as possible—maintaining a general interest without introducing personal details. When the participant inquired whether the interviewer had been to the specific location being described, a truthful response was given without providing any impressionistic material. The interviewer took a more active role at the end of the interview, where issues were introduced from a stock of common topics of travel talk which had been left untouched by the participant. The interviews were taped and lasted about an hour. All the interviews were then transcribed (approximately 100 hours of travel talk).

The initial analysis of the transcripts involved an index of major themes and narratives. The outline of the range of these themes provides the first demonstration of how personal change is accounted for in travel talk. This outline is structured in temporal sequence: the lay out of travel space; the entry into travel; returning back home; and assimilating its influence. The focus remains on the biphasic nature of narrative partitioning: making the difference between home and away, and then drawing the links between what happens there with what happens here. The process of separation is examined in terms of both generalised space (Section 5.3) and personal biography (Section 5.4). These sections deal with the construction of travel space in relation to life at home. The change that is seen as consequent to the journey is presented as both description (Section 6.1) and explanation (Section 6.2). These two sections deal with the presentation and subsequent evaluation of what happened. The final description of travel talk (Section 6.3) returns to the general picture, though this time it is contained in generalisations about categories such as people and the world; these are generalisations ostensibly drawn from the experience of travel.

The talk is presented in terms of a selection of quotes from interviews. They have been chosen to provide a sense of the range of opinions expressed about personal change and travel. Apart from gross themes, such as the nature of personal change, no attempt has been made to count the number of times each theme was mentioned in a content analysis. There are three reasons for this: the informal interview method makes it very difficult to assume each participant has had equal opportunity to refer to the theme, as might be more likely in the standardised interview; the integration of thematic material is dealt with in Chapter Seven, where the dialogic context for the particular informants will be uncovered by cross-references between those belonging to the same conversational group; and the emphasis is not on the particular set of traits that might govern how an individual perceives travel, but rather the shared conventions by which travel is used to reveal and make sense of personal change. Besides noting obvious contradictions, there is little attempt to piece together the meaning of any single travel narrative. This will be done in Chapter Seven, where three conversational groups will be examined. First, the range of constructions and uses of travel space will be presented.

5.4 Construction of travel space

One of the functions of discourse is to frame contexts in terms of a set of relevant readings and interpretations (see Goffman, 1975, and Giddens, 1985). The construction of space in travel talk concerns the differences elaborated between the forms of life that occur overseas and those found back home. It is concerned not only with the types of behaviour that are permitted but also with the governing logic at work in that space. In this sense, travel space is to be compared with the space of dreams, war, theatre, etc. In each instance, different sets of factors may be seen to control the action (e.g., desire, courage or dramatic form).

Travel space was constructed in the travel talk of participants mainly in terms of revelatory dualism: distance from what is known and understood brings one into proximity with the objects of that knowledge.

5.4.1 The self alone

There were relatively few abstract statements separating life overseas from life in Australia. Most of these stressed that overseas lay outside habitual modes of behaviour, the most obvious of which was language.

One Medicine student talked about her excitement at the prospect of encountering linguistic differences in Europe: 'Imagine being somewhere where everyone's speaking a totally different language!' [34: 22f].[4] Difference in language provides a ready device for registering change in world. Another participant described the effect of hearing Hebrew spoken as she arrived on a Kibbutz: 'I couldn't pick out or differentiate between sounds, it was just a lot of noise for me. And I just felt totally on my own.' [12: 24f] Taking away one's ability to converse with others removes a normal means of gaining support.

This kind of radical change was also associated with differences in practical forms of behaviour. A Chiropody student described her experience in Africa:

This is a different country...the money was different, everything else is different. How do I work out to use the public transport? How are we going to find somewhere to stay, work out how to use the phones? [40: 24f]

The disorientation described here is specifically focused on the practical demands of getting around overseas: the everyday skills one has learnt are inadequate and one must acquire new ones.

The lack of ready-made resources to deal with overseas was sometimes expressed in terms of vulnerability and deprivation of normal means of assistance. A nurse who described his feeling on first arriving in Europe reported this sense of panic:

The first thing I thought when I got off the plane: 'I'm on the wrong side of the world, what am I doing here?' My first feeling getting off the plane was of being very vulnerable. I was there on my own. There was, if I travelled somewhere in Australia, I could always call in reinforcements if I need them. I could always get home. I could always ring up and there'd be someone around. Whereas when I was over there, there wasn't that security. [48: 28m]

The difference between overseas and home is presented here as one of distance from sources of support. This was expressed also in the comparison made by a Medicine student [51: 23m] between arriving overseas and one's first day at school. There were cases of very particular forms of support that were missed. For one Arts student [17: 22f] travel to Europe was the first time in her life that she had been apart from her father, a doctor. It was now up to her to manage her own health. Another Arts student claimed that overseas: 'You have to be responsible for everything that you do' [07: 26f]. Travel space is represented here as a domain where the self has the opportunity to stand forth without supports.

Complementary to the unsupported sense of travel space is the claim of urgency associated with survival overseas. A Medicine student set a scene of hardship with no available assistance:

You're over there. You just have to do it. It's freezing cold, which is the time of year, and you want to have a cup of coffee, and you need a bed, you want to ask for this, or you've lost your passport, you need this. When you're desperate you really don't care what happens. Whereas people back here would still worry about what people would think, and whether it was the right way to do things, and that became really petty for me. [32: 24f]

In this scene, not only is the self isolated from help, but it is also subject to urgent demands which test its strength to survive.

This urgency of survival overseas thus can counter the need to show oneself favourably to others. The suspension of one's normal presentation of self is associated with the testing capacity of travel space. An Army Officer discussed how travel revealed a person's 'resources':

I think unescorted travel really sorts people out, by their abilities, that they can really fend for themselves, look after themselves. I know people who've come back and they're miserable from a trip that I would have a lot of fun on, particularly cos they were less than resourceful. [29: 22f]

This informant constructed travel here as a space for assessing whether one has the capacity to find resources for oneself: this is demonstrated in terms of the enjoyment gained from travel.

In the above cases, the distance from one's normal means of support is represented as an ordeal: travel is a space where one must draw on one's own powers in order to survive. However, the same distance from home support was presented by other informants as a freedom from the responsibilities to others. What differed most clearly between the two types of constructions was the sense of hazard attributed to getting around overseas. The freedom of travel was associated with the absence of any audience to which one needs to be accountable. A freelance editor described travel space as being without consequences:

You have no obligations. You have no ties. Every day is completely new. If you don't like something you can move onto the next town. If you don't fit in, you can move onto the next town. If you offend someone where you are, or somehow make things uncomfortable for yourself, you can move on. But on the other hand if things are going right you can stay. [49: 31m]

Rather than the practical demands of finding one's way around a strange place, this informant focused on the lack of power others have over one's actions due to a heightened mobility. Despite this difference, the capacities of ordeal and emancipation both grant travel space an immunity from the control of others. While this immunity is a matter of necessity in the 'ordeal', it is something seen as chosen in the 'emancipation'. The need to look good in another's eyes is lessened by either a more urgent need for survival or distance from the gaze of a community to whom one is answerable. The removal of this need strengthens the revelatory potential of travel space, just as adjustment for 'social desirability' is seen to render psychological measurements more accurate.

5.4.2 Bringing things closer

The emphasis in travel talk on distance from others contrasts with statements which maintained the potential of travel to bring others closer together. The construction of travel associated with the latter function is more complex than one which thrusts the self forth into the world. It involves a reorganisation of the normal separation of the spheres of reality and fiction.

This movement of being others closer asserts a distance from normal role prescriptions. However, rather than the self being disclosed in this process, what was revealed was the common bond between people. Travel was presented here as a space where the normal distance between 'people' is removed and a more natural ease of exchange is allowed to occur. For example, an Arts student commented on her experience in India:

The barriers are broken. Although there is a cultural barrier, I just found it incredibly easy to talk to people over there, and to relate to them in lots of different ways. Whereas here, I wouldn't talk to everyone in the shop, I would be a snob and I just wouldn't do that. [42: 26f]

The freedom here is not one of self-expression; it involves an exchange between people that is unconstrained by social hierarchies. Similarly, a Medicine student talked of the experiences related to this closeness between people as a 'common bond' that links people [68: 21f]. By contrast, on the return home she saw that, 'Everyone is walking along in their own little world'. Public life here is associated with distance between people, while in travel this distance is cancelled. (This point was often made also in reference to the intense relationships between young fellow travellers, particularly in youth hostels.)

Associated with this negation of the personal distance that operates in normal public life was the construction of travel space as an environment that encourages communal feeling. The family unit was seen as stronger overseas. A painter drew the distinction between the artificial distance within the family here versus the affection between young and old in Asia:

It's just so different. Because I mean especially with the old here are so isolated and [there] they hold so much more dignity because they've got a part in this life and they look after the younger children, and the children love the old people. [14: 23f]

Overseas provides a space for those normally excluded by the allocation of powers back home. A more natural and open social unit was presented.

It was not only people that had the opportunity to engage naturally outside of the roles of normal life. Animals were also cast in this position. A science student talked about the more authentic conditions of seeing animals in Kenya:

Just absolutely wild. No one has any control over them. It's a sense of absolute freedom in a way. And as much as we went hurtling around in these Nissan Urvans, with the tops off...and you get very close to the animals. And you think they're very tame. You're quite close. [25: 28f]

Just as one is able to make contact with people without the 'barrier' of self-presentation, so one can approach animals without the normal constraints of a zoo. Travel space is more natural.

There was another side to this coin. A contrast to this casting of travel space as a 'genuine' representation is the opposite sense in which travel allows one to adopt false identities. In the travel space described above (page 143) the difference in language provided a situation for demonstrating self-reliance. These language difficulties can also serve to break the 'barriers' and make 'people' the same. Inability to communicate can create a masquerade space where identities are interchanged between people. According to a Medicine student, it was possible to play within this gap while overseas:

You've got some license with the language. You can pretend that you don't understand the language quite as well as you do. [27: 23m]

Here absence of common language provides the opportunity to not be oneself. A Biology Ph.D. student stressed the carnivalesque possibility of travel: 'It's like going to a fancy dress party. You can pretend you're someone else' [33: 26f]. Travel as a masquerade is the antithesis of travel as an expression of self-reliance. 'Being with others' in a carnivalesque space is contrary to 'being oneself' in the space of ordeal. Despite this difference, though, both types of space grant a similar capacity to travel: the revelation of an identity—personal or common—that is seen to lie outside of the normal structures of meaning back home.

5.4.3 Travel as fiction

Quite the opposite would appear to be happening in the characterisation of travel space as a location where life overlaps with fiction. The sense of 'fiction' found overseas was presented as more real and present than it is normally. This is partly evident in references to the second-order representations of overseas in travel talk. These references included: visual art (the mist on a Greek island like a David Hockney photograph [06: 28f]), literature (areas of England like being in Poldark country [32: 24f]), stage (walking in London like being in a Grand Opera [44: 55f]), film (Florence like Room With a View [34: 22f], and television (America just like Hill Street Blues [30: 22m]). What do these references mean? The statements by participants suggest at least three different uses for the 'fiction' reference.

First, taking a pragmatic position, one might simply dismiss these allusions as shared referents employed in conversation with individuals who have not been overseas themselves: they point to a space which exists in the world at home in order to make more vivid what it is like being overseas. The shared home culture of pictures and words about overseas can provide a bridge which is useful in conveying the travel experience.

The second function works in the opposite direction: it distinguishes the experience of the traveller as separate from consumption of books and reproduced images. What can you get out of physically being overseas that you cannot find in a book or a film? (No interviewee suggested that travel could be substituted by the vicarious modes of experiencing overseas that were available to those present in Australia.) An Arts student expanded on why seeing paintings first hand could not be replaced by the seeing them reproduced in books: '...to actually see it with all the brushwork and the light and all. You can't describe. It's just something else' [17: 22f]. The incommunicability of the travel experience (see Sections Error! Reference source not found.) heightens the separation from normal life and also distinguishes it from the normally passive act of engaging with a representation of overseas.

Allied to this separation of travel space, the third use of 'fiction' serves to mark the logic of action that is peculiar to being overseas. A Medicine student reviewed this 'fictional' sensation: 'You're actually seeing these paintings that you've seen in books or you've read about [...] It was like a different world' [52: 23f]. This informant claimed that travel space contained a more immediate relation between the world and oneself: rather than relying on another person's representation, one can now see for oneself. Besides the implication that one is now free from a dependence on another's word, the fictional nature of travel space was seen to alter the practical nature of experience. An Arts student described India as like 'living in a painting' [13: 23m]. Such statements assume a distance in one's relation to travel space. Rather than being caught up in the practical flow of events, one stands back and observes the environment as one would a work of art—the difference being that no author stands in one's way.

This last function is particularly relevant to the practice of narrative partitioning. The merger of life and fiction entails a boundary that separates the action overseas from life back at home: if one is in a novel the events that occur there are not brought into account with similar events in the 'real world' outside the covers. The reflective possibilities of this type of separation were more generally indicated in statements about overseas as a space for 'looking'.

5.4.4 A space for looking

In addition to the 'fiction' reference, there were two qualities associated with travel space which facilitated forms of reflective activity. There qualities were one's ability to stand apart from others and the simplicity of moral conflicts.

Looking was seen as enabled partly by the solitary nature of travel. This Science student identified the revelation of self with the specific 'perspective' granted by travel:

Because you take yourself out of your everyday situation, and you're seeing yourself clearly in perspective, on your own without everything else. Everything else gives you perspective, but it confuses you when you're at home. [36: 23f]

Travel enables one to look at oneself more clearly because one can distinguish those elements which are part of one's setting from those which are traits of self: the self remains despite change.

An alternative account of the reflective capacity of travel space was grounded in the distinctness of moral categories overseas. A teacher presented Africa as an open display of corruption that would normally be hidden at home:

At least black is black, and white is white. You know where you stand, and it's straight. There corruption is there and you see it and everyone deals with you openly. But here, so and so's paid off, and you can't do anything about it. It's a simple life—that primitive life. And I think people yearn for it. [38: 30f]

Another traveller to Africa [63: 32f] found that it was much easier to recognise evil there: 'It's so blatantly obvious everything that's wrong.' Life at home is complex and entangled compared to life overseas.

Initially, many of the characteristics used to mark travel space can also be applied to the type of space particular to the theatrical stage. Two common elements are: people stand in a way which enables them to be looked at without regard to the audience's act of looking; and the stage represents an exception from life which brings an audience together to see its world presented more clearly. However, there is an underlying ambivalence which is also common in both travel talk and theatre. Travel appears to be marked as a space which either reveals self and other, or conceals this reality. The differences found while overseas provide opportunities for either showing what one is like when separated from the influence of a familiar environment or freeing one from restrictions in order to take part in a masquerade type of existence. It is either a space for looking, which brings one close to reality, or of fiction, which takes one away into a region of pure representations. In this opposition, travel shares with the theatrical stage a twin reading: as a human reality which is exposed and an artificial world from which one can escape this reality. It is too early at this stage to suggest that these readings are mutually exclusive. A closer examination of cases should reveal whether they can be structurally linked.

5.5 Travel in biographical space

So far the presentation of talk about travel has been concerned with the manner in which that space is constructed to reveal things in general. In this section, the focus concerns the particular biographical relations to that space presented by informants. Here the description concerns the passage into overseas: Is it prefigured in one's life or is it unannounced? Does being overseas represent the recovery of something lost, a leap forward into something hoped for, a strengthening of the bond towards home, or something completely different?

5.5.1 Being different

Before describing how travellers drew the distinction between themselves overseas and at home it should be noted that there was one participant who asserted the absence of such a difference. A Medicine student who had travelled to New Zealand recommended that: 'I would just say behave as you normally would behave. I don't think that you have to be any different really' [59: 27m]. Such an approach suggests that one need not look at an experience overseas as having anything special to say about oneself.

One biographical trajectory through travel disconnects the experience of overseas from anything that has occurred in normal life. There were various attitudes towards this discontinuity, each with different implications about the nature of travel. The first was to think that overseas represents a break in routine and therefore an experience that is not specific to being overseas. An Economics tutor, responding to the possibility that she behaved differently overseas, attributed this difference to material conditions that were independent of place:

I wouldn't say that I don't do [that] here. It's just that, when I say that I do things overseas that I don't do here, it's just the fact that I'm away not working: I have the time, the money. It's not that I wouldn't do them here. If they were here I'd do them. [01: 27f]

In this understanding, there are no essential differences between overseas and here: the basic conditions of time and money operate the same there as they would back home.

This element of reversibility in travel space can be contrasted with reports of travellers who saw their journey as marking a radical break with their past self. An Arts Ph.D. student, for instance, saw travel as making a break in her 'singular' picture of the self: it broke with '...a uni-direction journey through life' [26: 30f]. In her case, travel helped frame a story that was 'other' to the official one of career.

Sometimes, this talk about an alternative path was cast in a language of yearning to be 'somewhere else'. A nurse placed travel within the context of a life and saw the necessity for a life to be more than one thing:

I'd like to, when I'm 50 or 60, to say, 'Well I was in Melbourne for a while, but I was here and there'. There's just too many things happening. You only get one shot at life. And if you waste your opportunities, if you don't do it now, the next opportunity is when you're 50 or 55 or 60 and retired. And your options are much more limited. There's too many things happening to sit back in Melbourne and let them all go past you. [48: 28m]

Here life without travel is seen to be a passive existence: watching the world go past. In looking beyond 28 years to the age of 60, this informant felt that to only have been in the one place is to have squandered life's opportunity. Being able to talk about the other places one has been, provides one with something to say.

One of the biographical 'differences' of travel space is thus as a sphere of action which is separate from one's normal official career, which runs in tandem with it and gives one something 'special' to say about oneself.

5.5.2 Being in a dream

A less abstract reflection on the otherness of travel related it to the experience of dreams. The metaphor of dream suggested an incommensurability between the space of travel and normal life. A secretary used 'dream' to evoke the confusion of arriving back in Australia:

It was really weird. It was like it was all a dream, being away. And my parents met me at the airport, and it was like they were waking me up and saying, 'Come on you missed your plane, we've got to go back home'. It was like a dream. You can remember parts of it but you can't explain it properly to other people. [11: 21f]

Another use of the dream metaphor is indicated by an Arts student who described her feeling on return from overseas that: 'It was as if it was a dream, that I'd had just over one night' [65: 21m]. While these cases did not elaborate the conditions that caused overseas to resemble a dream, their comments serve to draw a firm boundary between what happened there and the serious concerns of normal commitments. This fantastic boundary is very similar to the 'fictional' quality of overseas (see Sections 0), though the figure of dream brings more directly into question the implications of the experience for the rest of one's life.

It is interesting to look at a case where this difference between overseas and home was not so distinctly marked. A Medicine student touched on the question of how seriously to take her romantic experiences overseas: 'But it's hard to draw the line. Just between how much of it's real and how much of it's just a fairy tale' [68: 21f]. Though the romance overseas was enough to break off her engagement, she felt that she could not take that specific travel relationship seriously here. What she seemed to obtain from the travel experience was a different picture of the possibilities that were available to her.

What is significant about this metaphor of 'dream' is that it demonstrates that not all informants were able to easily relate their experience overseas to life back home. There was in some cases an uncertainty about the consequences of one's actions there; the travel episode had not yet been given a compartment in one's biography.

5.5.3 Being part of a group

One relatively unspecific mode of integration of the experience of difference was to identify a trait for which ability to confront difference is a mark of distinction. The ability and desire to encounter difference is contrasted with a lack of curiosity; it is not travel which represents escape but the disinclination to go overseas which indicates a tendency to hide from the world. A nurse contrasted his position with that of his football mates:

They think the world is what they've got. And they've got no idea that what is travelling overseas, and what is happening to other people, and what is happening in the world is valid. It becomes an ostrich syndrome: you stick your head in the sand and the world's a happy place [...] They're never going to be stimulated to think of anything other than themselves and their own circle of friends. Which I think really limits you if that's all you've got. [48: 28m]

In this construction, the differences overseas are not necessarily integrated into normal life. However, the desire to search them out and confront them is something which serves to distinguish back home those with a healthy curiosity and those limited to their own world. The difference of travel becomes a moral value that serves to mark a difference among a home community. (Thus one's resourcefulness in coping on one's own becomes something tested overseas; see page 145)

This difference was extended beyond the simple pursuit of new places, to encompass the manner in which travellers dealt with those differences while overseas. The capacity to make the most of the differences that do occur while overseas was also a mark of distinction. A teacher spoke of a person she knew who had lived in India for six months and spoken to only two locals. In her opinion, she may as well have stayed home and watched a film about India; the mark of authentic travelling is meeting the people. Her advice was to expose oneself to contacts with locals:

Don't have too many expectations, take it as it comes. Don't isolate yourself from the people, because you can frequently discover so much more that way than you ever would. [38: 30f]

In general, therefore, travel as an achievement is concerned with being able to embrace difference without denying it in favour of previous expectations. There is nothing in this construction which guarantees greater certainty about reading the experience of being overseas. As a bottom line, though, one's ability to cope with difference can be at least a distinguishing mark of one's identity.

The integration of self overseas and self at home had more biographical complexity when the experience of travel was tied to ways of making sense that were marginal to everyday life. A relatively weak form of this integration was to associate the travel self with the mildly ridiculous world of romance and heroism. For instance, a Medicine student described her attitude to India:

I've always been interested in India, through things like the 'Jewel in the Crown' and all of that—all the Raj stuff. Which I guess is a bit silly really. I just thought it would be adventurous. [52: 23f]

Casting the travel self in this 'ridiculous' mould leaves open two possible attitudes: to see travel as the release of a form of life that is marginalised normally, or to distance oneself from travel experience by classing it as a form of enjoyment rather than education. This difference represents a similar ambiguity to the alternative revealing and concealing constructions of travel space discussed earlier (see page 151).

The revealing function was often expressed by linking the romance of travel with the biographical space of childhood. For example, a nurse spoke of her yearning to travel to the Eastern bloc countries because of: '...my childhood fantasies of adventure' [12: 24f]. A social worker related his desire to travel to a curiosity that is inspired by childhood games:

When I was a kid at school I used to really enjoy history and the history classes. I was very interested to hear about the stone age people in Britain and the Roman invasion and to learn about that sort of stuff. When I was a kid I used to play with knights and toy vikings and stuff like that, and cowboys and Indians and stuff. [35: 31m]

Again, whether travel is merely a safe location for expressing this immature element of self or a liberation from adult repression and alienation is not determined. However, by linking it to the childhood self the difference of the travel experience becomes something which is owned.

Associated with the childhood link to travel was construction of travel space in terms of a family project. In some instances, the travel episode was presented as guided by expectations related to the family domain. This was particularly the case where the traveller journeyed to a location that was linked to the distinguishing identity of the family. A Music student gave as a reason for travelling to Poland the desire to see the place where her family's stories originated:

I was curious to see for myself what the country was like. Because my whole childhood I'd had stories about it. I was so curious to see what it was really like for myself. [37: 26f]

As with the fictional nature of travel space identified above, this traveller contrasts overseas with the passive role of audience for representations at home. This link is more directly demonstrated in the words of an Arts student who talked about the background of her journey to Syria:

I could never really relate, absorb it, because I'd never been through it myself. My father would always tell his experiences of going overseas, the photos, but it was just like looking at pictures here, or paintings. You don't know the story behind it at all. [23: 23f]

In this case, the student achieved the position of being able to pass judgement on her family's decision to emigrate from Syria. Her concern was to gather information which would enable her to imagine how things would have gone had her family stayed in Syria (She judged that the Syrians were not nearly as unsophisticated as she expected them to be, and perhaps even more open). Travel here is a realm for both exploring a 'possible' life and assuming the authority to evaluate one's family. For instance, a Science student travelled to the place from whence her parents decided to leave for Australia. She was explicit about her judgement on her family: 'I think my parents made the right choice leaving' [36: 23f]. These cases show travel as demonstrating to individuals the conditions that they have inherited in the present day. The construction of travel space which includes marginal forms of life thus has its parallel in biographical space mainly by reference to the memories of childhood, and the identification formed there with narratives in stories that were told within the family.

In allied instances, the travel episode was cast in the same form as a previous parental journey away from home and back again. An Arts student commented on how her desire to travel had been set in train by her parents' history of travel:

It was what I always wanted to do, and I did it earlier than I thought I would. And I think I always wanted to do it because my parents had done it. It's something I'd just expected to do. [17: 22f]

Travel in these instances is presented similar to a pilgrimage: one inherits stories that serve to define one's world and the experience of encountering this world in travel provides one with the opportunity to give it active witness. In some cases, this act of travel itself forms a tradition within the family.

There was sometimes, however, an exception to the paradigm of pilgrimage. One stark contrast with the contemporary passage is the room presented within travel talk to use one's witness of sacred sites as refutation of myths: seeing is not fully foretold before one leaves. The following is an example of how one informant, an Arts student, opposed her experience of seeing overseas to the expectations which others had given her. She contrasted her ease while in Rome with what she had been told:

Well I expected Rome to be really frightening and absolutely massive and totally chaotic, and absolutely filthy, and Italians not to be very pleasant. And the language difficult. I thought I would be totally bamboozled, cos of what people had told me that Rome is worse than New York. I didn't cope well with New York at all. And Paris I expected to find it hard because of the language. And because of what everyone tells you about how pig-headed and unfriendly the Parisians are. And we found it to be totally the opposite. [66: 21f]

What is foregrounded in this account is the individual impression of overseas. Cast against the preconceptions provided her by others at home, she demonstrates her own powers of observation. This fits the paradigm of grand tour, where the traveller tests out dominant opinion through experience. Her experience is confirmed by the two friends she was travelling with. They share among themselves a picture of overseas which they know as true, yet different to what is believed back home.

In this case, the development of mutual knowledge between friends is similar to the culture of travel shared within the family. The experience of travel in these cases plays a part in recognising one's membership of a group. An example of this is the relationship between a nurse and an Arts student. In the eyes of the nurse, the Arts student's prior journey to England and India provided him with a knowledge which was difficult for them to share. She claimed one of the reasons for travelling was to restore this imbalance in their friendship:

What I was worried about was that he had been off and -‑ because we'd shared so much, we're very good friends, [he] and I, been friends for a long time ‑- he just had experienced things that I probably had no comprehension of. [...] When I was used to being so close to someone that I understood and felt what they felt when they told me something, and that's what I've been used to with my close friends that all of a sudden I no longer would have felt that. [12: 24f]

She presented the experience of travel as a difference between people which is stronger than the normal differences between friends: it was more divisive than sporting allegiances, schools, tastes, etc. It is a difference which she claimed could not be compensated by sympathetic understanding. As a result, those who travel form a separate group from the rest of the community. She continued:

That's part of the thing with travelling, when people do, whether it's here or there, there are somethings people just cannot feel because they haven't been through it themselves [...] You're not able to express it to a point that they can. [12: 24f]

She suggested the possibility that travel has no relevance outside of itself. Her advice was to travel '...for the sake of travelling' [12: 24f]. (The evaluative consequences of her construction of the travel group is discussed below; see pages 174, 181) This irreconcilability of travel experience and normal life here does not seem to lead to uncertainty, rather it becomes the basis for marking one group as different from another.

One of the terms that served to mark those who travel as different from others was 'travel bug'. This was used to indicate a certain restlessness to visit sites that till now exist only in the traveller's imagination. An Economics student described this 'bug' as a drive to 'see for yourself':

You think about the pyramids and the sphinx and all the temples they've got there and to see the ancient civilizations so you hear and learn about for so many years. It's really good to go and actually see it. [15: 21m]

The term 'travel bug' suggests the understanding in some instances of travel as form of compulsion, much like devoted runners who claim to share an addiction to running (Murray, 1985a).

Though the space of travel generally seemed to be granted the power to reveal things, there were different types of links which travellers made between themselves in that space and themselves in normal life. These links varied in the strength of the difference between the travel self and normal self. In some cases there was no difference asserted by informants. In other instances the informants claimed a lack of certainty about how to integrate their experience overseas with life here. Sometimes, the journey was related to memories or groups that were marginal to official life back home: often travel provided them with first-hand experience of stories to which they had been an audience in the past. In a more general fashion, being overseas enabled one to stand back and observe the world. Otherwise, the simple act of travel is not explicitly related to normal life at all, but seen as a domain of action which is all of its own, whose access is the mark of one's membership of the travel group. These descriptions represent the space in which the informants presented themselves overseas. The next step concerns how these differences were carried over to life at home.



[1]. There has been a tradition of using travel as a metaphor to describe life. Within the German tradition, the dialectical understanding of progression through life is expressed in the metaphor of a journey that involves encounters with what cannot be understood. The Platonic myth of 'anamnesis', referred to by Bloch (1970), represents the assumption that the end of life's journey involves a return to one's original condition; a spiralling progress symbolised by the coiling snake. For Heidegger (1962) the desire to search out meaning in exotic places, 'the conquest of remoteness' [140], is constitutive of modern Dasein, the ground of Being.

[2]. However, given the traditional place of the clinical interview method in this type of research, something needs to be said about its inappropriateness here. Much experimental research assumes that a laboratory can be constructed in which human behaviour may be observed in a more naked state. The focus of the present study is specifically on that process of construction as it occurs among ordinary actors. One of the necessary assumptions of the clinical interview method is that human behaviour can be studied independently of context, and therefore observations made in a laboratory can be generalised to other settings in everyday life. The same assumption is at work in the clinical interview. There, what interviewees disclose about themselves is abstracted from the discursive context and applied to life outside the interview. The main criticism of this method is that it ignores the mediating function of discourse and its context: the region of the interview is largely seen as a window into the rest of the person's life. The two points of conflict with this method are that: first it ignores the possibility that such regions may already exist outside of their institutionalised form; and second that there is no necessary relation between the form of talk in the clinical interview and the person's standing in other conversations.

[3]. The hospital targeted for this study was St.Vincent's Public Hospital, which has a reputation as being one of the more 'caring' institutions, compared to the more 'established' Royal Melbourne Hospital and 'easy-going' Austin Hospital in Heidelberg. It was generally seen by Medicine students as the hospital for Catholic students. Twelve of the Medicine students were from St.Vincents, three from Royal Melbourne, and one from the Austin.

[4]. Each statement is identified by a series of figures that indicate the participant's number, age and sex respectively.

Text is copyright Kevin Murray. For reproduction inquiries, email