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

7 Travel talk in context

The examination of travel talk revealed the significant role played by conversational groups, particularly the family, as audiences for overseas experiences. The role of the family was elaborated in conditions before, during and after travel: many of the expectations tested out overseas were related to stories specific to the family setting; travellers often talked about the importance of communication with family members while they were away; and on returning home, the family provided an important source of acknowledgement for personal change. While the importance attached to the family varies between cases, there were enough examples of its use as a reference point in travel talk to suggest it would be an appropriate place to begin an examination of the workings of a conversational group. The basic question to be followed is: How does travel talk function as an activity in the family context?

In the previous two chapters, one of the basic functions assigned to travel talk was the differentiation of the world overseas from life at home. The various types of differentiation can be approached as different forms of narrative partitioning: the process of marking off an expressive space which reveals self and other. Bruner's (1987) study of narrative in the family context has a similar emphasis; his point is that differences within the family find a common ground in conversation which is structured along shared oppositions. In one case, opposition between 'home' and 'world' is the source of stories brought to the family table about what happened outside; differences emerge about its evaluation, e.g., whether the world is to be trusted as one would a fellow family member. The following analysis of travel talk in families follows Bruner's method by looking for oppositions that are folded into the difference between the world overseas and life at home. The process of 'folding' focuses on the way a spatial difference is constellated: it looks to the evaluation of the boundary between here and there. Attention to this process allows a deeper examination of narrative partitioning. In Bruner's study, it might be that the opposition between trustworthy and suspicious is 'folded' into the opposition between 'home' and 'world'. In this chapter the situation is more complex because of the addition of a third term: there is not only home life and the neighbouring world outside, but also the world overseas; whether this term complicates the picture will remain to be seen. In this chapter I hope to explore further this use of the division of home and world, particularly emphasising how what happens overseas is related to life at home.

Three families were used as sources for this chapter. They shared two characteristics: a practising Christian belief and a relatively comfortable middle class homes. Yet at the same time, in their travel talk each family makes of their overseas experience something quite different. Such differences are useful for demonstrating the conventional nature of much travel talk.

The method adopted for presenting the descriptions of family travel talk follows the order used in the general descriptions of the previous two chapters: an outline of how the family presents themselves in relation to travel; how they distinguish between themselves and others in the world; how they characterise the properties of travel space; and their accounts of changes that have occurred as a result of overseas travel. This pattern deals with three sets of differences: the family and its neighbouring world; the neighbouring world and the world overseas; and individuals from the neighbouring world before and after their passage overseas. A summary of the main oppositions employed in the travel talk will be presented in table form at the end of each section. This will be the most abstract presentation of material. However, the description of travel talk will attempt to work as much as possible within the language used by the families, to find often used phrases present in the accounts of the family and travel and thus to ground the abstractions in everyday language.

7.1 The Camerons[1]

The Camerons live in an outer Eastern suburb of Melbourne. Nora Cameron has supported her children alone since her husband died in 1975. She has four children: Douglas, Matthew, Mark and Rose. Nora was given a dominant role in the decisions of her children to travel. The description thus begins with a discussion of her statements.

7.1.1 'You sow a seed'

Nora described her father as a unionist and spoke of an enduring family interest in the issue of social justice, especially as it relates to the church. The image Nora presented of herself was of being set against the expectations of others. She gave the example of a decision she had made just after her engagement had been announced: to the disapproval of most other people, she decided to go off on her own and travelled to Perth before her wedding. Others had expected her to quietly save money for her future married life. Her strength of will, particularly in its disregard for convention, was commented on by both herself and her children.

She used this theme of disregard for the opinions of others to portray the decision by members of the Cameron family to travel to South America. Nora travelled to South America in 1980. At the time she was working as a teacher, and had some additional money coming through related to the death of her husband. The reason she gave for South America was an interest in third world issues. Again, she set her decision against the expectations that others would have that she invest the money in more financially secure activities like having the house painted. (See Section 7.1.2 for more extended discussion of the opposition between family and outside world). Nora justified her decision to travel by applying an economic metaphor to her autobiography: she was travelling to 'build up my memory bank'. Nora has since been on two more overseas journeys: to China and to the Middle East. From one perspective, therefore, travel was a nonconformist action.

There were also two less reactive reasons given for travel. The first was related to church politics; for example, she said that she decided to choose China as a destination out of an interest in the role of the British in the region. The second reason was more purely autobiographical and concerned projects that would have little direct significance to others; for example, the account she gave for deciding to travel to the Middle East referred to a lifetime ambition to see certain sites, such as the pyramids. When describing her response to seeing the pyramids, she said, 'I could have died then!' The rhetorical ground for travel for Nora was thus constituted in both the political and the autobiographical domains: the public realm where individual action is related to collective ends; and the personal realm where experience is evaluated in terms of goals that are limited to a single life. (Section 7.1.4 includes quotes where these two spheres appear to intersect.) This opposition can be found at work in the travel talk of Nora's children as well.

Her eldest child, Douglas, is a social worker. His first trip overseas occurred early in his tertiary education, when he won a scholarship to train in Britain as an engineer. While there he spent three weeks on a Eurail pass. Seeing Europe was, according to Douglas, the fulfilment of earlier aspirations:

I was realising lifetime ambitions, I was seeing historical things. I am very interested in history, so I was experiencing this history that I had always dreamed about doing. And it was just one of the great experiences of my whole life.

Douglas related this interest in history back to his boyhood, when he was a 'castle fanatic', interested in 'knights in shining armour and English history and all this crap'. It was presented as a personal interest.

The decision to go to South America occurred in 1976. Douglas described its circumstances:

My interest in South America came from my mother. When I was talking about travel she said, 'Why don't you go to South America? That's an interesting place, no one ever goes there. That's a fascinating place, why don't you go there?'

The reason Nora gave for this advice was to foster Douglas' independence:

He thought he'd like to go to South America, and I said, 'Well that would mean we were without him for Christmas'. A lot of things to think about. But I thought it was more important that he should be independent and go. So I encouraged him. So he went to South America. Every week I kept the letters he used to write, 20 pages, every week I kept his letters. It was great.

Douglas' initial interest in travel was presented as part of a biographical project of 'seeing' particular sites dreamt of since childhood. Once this desire had been satisfied, then it was possible to become involved in the more politically motivated journeys. The reasons Douglas gave for his current interest in travel were 'enjoyment and education.' Douglas presented these motives in a developmental sequence: enjoyment needs to be exercised 'out of the system' before the educative potential of travel can be explored. On his second overseas trip he took his wife on an around the world tour (she had not 'done' Europe yet), including a return visit to South America. Douglas' advice about travelling was often mentioned by others in the family, particularly Mark. However, there was a member of the family whose travel talk was contrasted with Douglas'.

The second son, Matthew, was a male nurse. His first trip was to Perth, after the second last year of High School. His mother suggested this trip: 'I thought it was good for him to get away—just from a mother'. After completing school, he decided to become a nurse, but had to wait a year before he was old enough to enrol. As she did for Mark, Nora suggested travel to Matthew:

I said, 'You know, you ought to go overseas, Mat', like, 'You ought to go overseas'. And you sow a seed, just in passing you drop a little seed. You've got a mother: mothers all do it.

However, unlike Mark, Matthew decided to go to Europe, rather than South America. He considered South America a 'well-worn path in our family'. His mother described how Matthew developed during travel:

He found out if you went early in the day you could buy a drink for 50 cents, but the same drink was three dollars. And I think he rather liked being grown up and away from home and all. And that was great. It was good for him.

Nora seems here to be laying out travel as a stage on which Matthew could develop his resourcefulness: he could look after himself now. Though Matthew accounted for his decision to go into nursing by reference to a family trait of doing 'something worthwhile', he saw himself as different to the rest of his family: he was 'not quite as settled'. Though this made him different from his siblings, he was able to derive his restlessness from a picture of his mother's biography:

I think she appreciates the person I am. I think she understands. But I think she was doing different things when she was girl. Some of the things she did weren't sort of the mainstream things. The parents put her through—you know the baker's daughter out in the country town—her parents put her through school when it wasn't done for the working class kids to go through school. And she went to teacher's college. And it just didn't happen that working class kids came out of the war years, the depression years, went through school and went through university, the colleges. So she moved away from home and into the city and moved about a bit. So she to an extent, I think while [...] she'd prefer me to be like [Douglas] and [Mark...] I think she understands the person I am, I think she identifies with it a bit.

Matthew used travel to assert a separation from and identification with the family. His choice of Europe was presented as a defiance of the accepted family path to South America. At the same time, Matthew identified his restlessness with his mother's nonconformity. Of the children, Matthew seemed alone in his pursuit of purely individual fulfilment: he was the only one who did not cast his travel experience within an educational frame.

There is a certain irony in Matthew's situation. While the non-conformist attitude of the family is focused on the outside world, the family remains united in its defiant stance about travel to South America. However, this attitude 'sows the seed', to use Nora's expression, for similar defiance within the family. Thus Matthew focuses this distrust of public opinion away from the suburban world in which the Camerons live and turns it on the family itself: theirs is a conformity that threatens identity. This irony is doubled in Matthew's identification with his mother. The rebellious trait that 'sowed the seed' for the family's travel to an unconventional country has also found root within the family and caused resistance from the inside. The situation of the only daughter, Rose, was rarely referred to by the Camerons: she appeared to be untouched by the defiant independence encouraged by her mother. By contrast the youngest son, Mark, learned to face misunderstanding outside the family while being able to find a place within it.

Mark is a Science student. He attributed his decision to travel to the contribution of money from a relative and encouragement from both Nora and Douglas. Mark used the phrase 'worded me up' to indicate Douglas' contribution to his trip to South America. He placed his trip to South America within a family tradition:

...my family believes that it's good to travel at some stage. It broadens your outlook. Like I was brought up with the expectation that I would travel at some stage, and I had a bit of money in the bank, about three or four thousand dollars. It just seemed that it would be a good time to travel. I'm not sure why I picked then. I guess I had an urge to go overseas.

This 'urge' to travel was partly elaborated by Mark as a form of life fulfilment. Mark spoke about the urgency of 'seeing' these sites:

It's difficult to put my finger on, but in some ways there are some places that you think, 'I won't be satisfied until I've seen those places.'

Mark initially wanted to travel with Matthew, who was 'unavailable', so Mark chose a 'mate', Stephen. Nora claimed there was trouble between herself and Stephen's family about involving him in South America. In describing his travels, Mark associated his experience with Douglas', and described Matthew's European trip as more 'lonely'.

The Cameron's travel talk splits the value of travel into two categories: the private satisfaction of seeing personally significant locations, and the publicly relevant opportunity to gather information about the social justice situation in other countries. These categories were seen to be linked developmentally: the private quest precedes the public role, so one can get the desire to see the Eiffel Tower out of one's 'system' by going to Europe, and then journey to the more challenging destinations. The exception to this appeared to be Matthew, who stayed with the personal value of travel.

7.1.2 '"Where did they get the money?"'

Nora presented the family's history of travel in terms of its opposition to her neighbouring world. For example, in talking about Grant's decision to travel with his newly married wife rather than putting money into a house, Nora cited the disapproving voices of others:

One of the problems about encouraging your kids to do these things is an element of: 'How could they possibly afford to do..?' [...] 'How can you take a year off work?', or 'Where did they get the money to do that?'

In justifying her encouragement to travel she quoted her own mother: 'My mother taught me, that you can only sleep in one bed, and you can only sit on one chair at a time, and you can only sit down to one meal at a time'. Nora countered the criticism that travel was thriftless with her own practical argument against the extravagant nature of 'normal' expectations for material possessions. Nora's argument is echoed by Matthew, who presented his case for travelling in the words: 'You only get one shot at life'. This statement frames life in the terms of individual use; it opposes a life that is framed according to values that lie outside direct individual fulfilment; e.g., responsibility to family. Despite their different values, Nora and Matthew share a viewpoint that entails grasping things for what one can do with them rather than for their intrinsic appeal. Though this would seem to run against the theme of personal fulfilment in travel, Nora compensates for this by imagining a 'memory bank' in which significant experiences are being stored for later pleasure and comfort.

In opposition to the more 'materialist' concerns of her neighbours, Nora argued for her own prudence. In her view, material consumption can be over-valued:

I guess one looks at possessions as against the things you want to do. Some people say, 'I can't afford to go overseas', and they've got two houses and two cars. So they can afford to go. Or they own two blocks of land. So in fact when people say, I cannot afford to go overseas, some people cannot afford to, but some people chose to put their money into other things.

This talk implies the presence of voices within the community who were antagonistic to the Cameron's travel practice. It was not merely the frequency of travel which appeared to others as improvident, but also the strange destinations that were chosen. Mark said that he was warned by Nora not to expect many people to be interested in his travels to South America. Mark reported what his mother had said when she returned from there herself:

She also said when she got back, they'd say, 'Oh, I've been to Europe...' then people are really interested in talking. Everyone knows someone who's been to Europe, but they didn't wanna be in the same place that they talk about, cos you say you've been to South America or other places like that—people sort of aren't so interested in hearing about it.

This is the type of warning that Nora claimed she passed on to others she heard were travelling there. She asserted the presence of a set of conventions for dinner table discourse about travel which excluded the South America experience:

So when a younger married man went [to South America], I said to him [...] 'When you get back you've got to realise that no one's going to be particularly interested in where you went.' [...] If I go out to dinner with anybody, they've all been to England. I really am not part of the conversation because of the sorts of places I've chosen to go. They're not necessarily the sorts of places that people of my age would go.

Such exclusion, however, did not completely deny the Cameron family an audience for its South American travels. Their travel talk had a definite voice in their church community (see Section 7.1.4). Before examining this community audience, it is necessary to describe what sort of points were made in the Camerons' travel talk.

7.1.3 `That could be my Dad'

Nora and Douglas made generalisations about human nature based on their experiences overseas. Nora used two terms to read the scenes she was presented with: 'people' and 'man'. The term 'people' assumed a commonality of human weakness between individuals, whereas 'man' indicated potential strength. For Nora, travel provided the opportunity to see these characteristics played out on the stage of history. For example, she described looking at a wall in Luxor, and interpreting the behaviour of two boy figures in the scene:

What you discovered is—it might have been 4,000 years ago—what you discovered is, that nothing's changed. There are lazy people then, and there are lazy people now. You saw carved into one of the stones, you saw some of the kids playing. You saw one kid almost cheating. Human nature has not changed. People are people.

Here Nora claimed that 'people' possess a nature which is independent of place: this nature involves a mischievous resistance to structure (See page 14 for discussion of this proposition). Douglas described the same Egyptian scene in his own travels as the revelation of an ancient scene. He described what the 'paintings' meant to him:

These beautiful paintings on the wall, and that was done by someone like me, 3500 years ago, and you look at the pictures on the walls and you see life 3500 years ago and you get an idea of what people were like.

Unlike his mother, Douglas saw these paintings as testimony to the advances made in modern society: a contrast between the static state of the ancient Egyptian world with the rapid technological advances in the modern world.

Though Nora and Douglas differed in this use of the term 'people', they did agree that travel space contains evidence of the capacities of modern technology. Nora named the agent at work here 'man', rather than 'people'. She talked about various scenes she had witnessed in relation to an understanding of the possibilities of human endeavour:

In Israel you would come to the most barren country and then the irrigation would start and there would be, it wouldn't be a broad area, there would be almost a defined line where the irrigation would start, and you were into an irrigated area. And that was wonderful to see what man can do—interesting thing you often see overseas, more so perhaps than here where we don't have these.

Travel shows 'what man can do'. Whereas the term 'people' points to a common weakness, 'man' signals an outstanding strength. For Nora, it was important to actually 'see' these demonstrations of capacity rather than to read about them or watch them on television:

We see people put men in space. We don't actually see that cos you're not there. But this is actually [what] working with people have achieved. When they set out to achieve things, not much is beyond man. And that's what I think is one of the things that is good about going overseas. The 'people' bit you can find that here.

It is not surprising given the universal traits suggested by the term 'people', that knowledge of it was not unique to travel ('you can find that here'). However, the particular feats performed by 'man' are not found elsewhere and command particular attention. Douglas also saw travel as revealing the potential possibilities of collective action: he reported the developments in Nicaragua and Cuba as 'social experiments' which demonstrate the power of socialism as a form of government. Overseas thus demonstrated that improvement in the human condition is possible.

It should be noted that this reading of overseas was not consistently positive. Not all of the possibilities present in South America were worth living up to. One of the aspects which Nora dwelt on about South America was the abominable juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness and their indifference to this; for example, in Mexico there was a pile of rubbish right next to an exquisite palace. (The experience of filth in South America was also something which Mark commented on.)

Besides seeing misplaced refuse and poverty, there was also personal involvement in perilous situations. Douglas reported that sometimes there was: '...a fine line you walk between being free person and having someone attaching electrodes to your genitals'. The possibility of being imprisoned was often present. Three of Mark's stories dealt with incidents of great uncertainty and fear for his safety in the hands of South American authorities.

This sense of possible hardship was most often expressed in terms of identification with endemic poverty in South America: it could be me or someone I know out there starving. For Douglas, Mark and Stephen, the experience of being in South America was partly presented as a confrontation with injustice. For Douglas one incident was the scene of a well-dressed man standing by the side of the road selling toy cars: 'You think, “That could be my dad”'. This instance illustrates the educative role of travel: the individual traveller is able to translate into a personal realm the experience of political struggle. Douglas' story established a point of personal identification against which he contrasted the setting of poverty; this was used to stress the urgency of political action. The key narrative in Mark's travel talk sets up a similar scene, though he evaluates it by means of religious text rather than political theory. It is worth quoting in full because of the parallel with Saint Augustine's conversion narrative (see Chapter Three). He describes the scene he shared with Stephen:

We were in a small Pizza Hut place in Ecuador, in the capital, in Quido. And we were just in there eating our pizza [...] and a little kid comes up to the window with, I guess he would have been about four or five, with all sort of scabs and sores all over his face. He had an old jumper on, with all holes in it, and a pair of pants with no bum in it, no shoes. He was probably with his sister, who was about seven. He just came up and stood at the window and just stared in at us eating. And the people from the next table got someone to send out to get rid of them. And after we walked out he came out and tried to get some money off us. And that was quite upsetting and bit depressing. I guess from my background, to be aware of social issues and part of the Christian belief is to have some hope that things will be better. To see things like that is a really hopeless thing. So that's disturbing. I went back and I carried a tiny Bible with me, which I'd looked at two or three times, and I opened it up and there was a reading about Jesus saying 'When I was hungry you fed me and when I was naked you clothed me', and people were saying, 'When did we see you naked? Never. When did we ever see you hungry, and offered you food?' He said, 'When you did this for the least important of my brothers, you did it for me.' It was almost a coincidence that I guess I opened up the Bible and that passage was there, but it spoke to me about the hope of the situation I guess. It's hard perhaps for anyone who's not a Christian to understand. Just to say that Jesus identified with the suffering: it's a hopeful sign, that puts the onus back on people to live out that hope and try to make some sort hope a reality there. That was early in the trip and I guess that opened up my eyes to look at things a bit differently for the rest of the trip.

Mark's narrative involved seeing a boy who was denied what Mark takes for granted: an ordinary meal and a set of clothes. Here is a contradiction. If people are the same, why cannot an Ecuador boy have the basic provisions that are common in everybody else's life? The boy appears doomed to a different fate: giving him help would be useless because the economic structure would simply return him to his original poverty. Individual action is plainly inadequate. The solution involves the adoption of a universal scheme for dealing with such differences. If there exists a common link between people, such as being one in Christ, then the act of charity towards individuals is framed within a larger scheme of social justice, for which mercy is an absolute value—worthwhile for its own sake—rather than a means to an end. Without this belief, attempts to relieve the condition of the Ecuador boy would seem futile. Mark's narrative, therefore, demonstrates the usefulness of the Christian doctrine of oneness in the body of Christ. (The passage Mark referred to is Matthew 26: 34-46.) Rather than simply learning its principles, the Pizza Hut incident shows that they are actually necessary: religious dogma becomes intelligible in terms of personal experience.

Like the form of travel known as 'meeting the people' (see Section Error! Reference source not found.), the personal encounter with injustice in South America is contrasted with the picture of the world accepted at home. Douglas claimed that: '...the image you had in your mind of what it would be like is just totally different especially to what you see.' When Mark's companion Stephen reported the Pizza Hut episode, he differentiated those who would not look at the boy from people like himself. He explained his feelings:

I felt uncomfortable about it, put it that way. [..] For some people that wouldn't be a problem. You could just ignore those things quite easily. But I think the type of person I am, I think about those things and I become conscious about those things cos I don't really like the fact that the world's like that too much.

For both Mark and Stephen, the Pizza Hut incident interpolated them at a personal level into the church doctrine: in his psychological crisis, Mark found direct advice from the Bible, and Stephen discovered that he will care when others do not. Such narratives mediate between the realm of personal experience and the world of collective politics.

Matthew's travel talk had nothing of these confrontations. He emphasised the feelings of vulnerability and exposure when he landed in London: it was like '...being on the other side of the world'. These fears were eventually overcome, but not by individual capacities, rather because: 'Europe is a simple place to travel in'. Besides increasing his level of confidence, Matthew spoke of the way travel satisfied his curiosity about others. He described sitting back in a café in Florence, watching men make passes at women—something he would never have the opportunity to see in Australia. Though travel catered for a restlessness, Matthew did not relate it to changes in life back home: he failed to find interest in his travel experiences among his friends. Travel for Matthew was articulated within the domain of personal satisfaction.

7.1.4 `You've got your own stories to tell'

All the Camerons who travelled had something to say about whether or not it changes people. Nora framed her opinion about change explicitly within Christian doctrine. She used this doctrine to divide up character into elements that are 'god-given' and elements that are amenable to change. She said:

I don't think what you are, you can change your actions consciously. I won't change the fact that I get impatient sometimes. That won't change, but because I'm a Christian, I sort of believe that I can control those actions because I do it consciously, they're part of the things that I believe can change. You can alter, given certain experiences and certain conditions.

As with Nora's comment about the universal waywardness of 'people' (see page 10), she presented a personal weakness (impatience) as something beyond individual agency. This contrariness is part of one's nature and therefore pre-determined. However, life experiences can serve to give one control over those pre-existing traits.

While experience does not significantly differentiate between people, it did count for Nora in making a difference within an individual's life. A paradigmatic case for this understanding of personal change is Stephen's 'conversion' to social justice after his trip to South America. Her presentation of this change complemented the Pizza Hut story told by Mark and Stephen. It referred to an experience of confrontation with poverty:

It changed his [Stephen's] whole life. His whole attitude. He comes from a very wealthy family. Not that they show it, but they're quite wealthy. And suddenly, he saw life in another way. You know. It changed his whole attitude. He's been quite a different person since.

Nora saw the change in Stephen as a greater commitment to the cause of social justice. She described one of the scenes which Stephen had talked about to others:

[Stephen] saw a hospital where you bring your own sheets. And you bring your own pillowcase, where there are not enough drugs, and you saw things you'd never seen and didn't even know existed. And all that had an effect on them, a good effect. I thought a good effect.

This hospital in Lima was also described in the travel talk of Mark and Stephen. Mark claimed that the experience of South America had its strongest impact on Stephen because he had not been forewarned of it like the Camerons. According to Mark, Stephen's experience of seeing the situation there really 'hit home'.

Mark claimed that Stephen's change had been forecast in advance by friends:

I think everyone was expecting him to change beforehand, people were saying, 'Oh', some of our close friends, 'Oh, it's going to be terrible when you get back you'll have changed so much. What if you get back and you're all different?' And they were expecting us to change so much.

Stephen, in reported conversation with Mark, heard of others' impressions that he had changed on return. He related this to his greater appreciation of his own fortune and greater commitment to social justice. Stephen associated his change with the sense of 'meeting the people':

Like I was talking to [Mark], and he said, people had noticed a change in me. And I felt different. I felt much more [pause] I mean, hard to explain what it was. I guess I felt, I felt sort of maturer having done it. But I felt much more lucky [...] just associated with church things. I felt much more positive about being involved in things that were talking about justice and that sort of stuff. And of course we talked about our trip two or three times. I showed the slide show a couple of times. And deliberately to tell people about these things that I experienced. Not the things that I'd really seen, but really what I'd experienced about the people and how these people live. And the same sort of stories I'd been telling you: all the things that don't happen in Australia.

One concrete difference which Stephen reported here was feeling more 'comfortable' being in a church setting and talking about social issues. Elsewhere in his talk he gave this as a reason for going to South America:

[..] the political situation and the corruption and all that sort of stuff—to see it, not just to hear about it. Cos as I say, I've heard a lot about it through church things and social justice and that. But as I say, then you've got your own stories to tell.

'Seeing' injustice in this context grants one an active voice in the conversation about social issues—'hearing' about injustice is the position of the audience. Travel for Stephen involved a transition from being a member of the audience to telling the stories himself. Both Mark and Stephen found ready audiences for their travel stories: Stephen spoke at his mother's school; and church groups asked them both to speak to local gatherings. Mark saw this as his friends' normal response to travel:

I think when you travel in some ways you're the centre of attention because you're not there any more and people are wondering what's happening to you and they're interested in where you're going and when you get back they're interested in what you did and you often talk a lot about it afterwards and you tell your stories

For Mark though, his experience of travel not only gave him a voice in the church community, but he also reported feeling more confident in speaking to his peers outside the church. In his relationship with his peers at university Mark described himself as an 'introvert'. His experience of travel was presented as contrary to this trait:

In a sense I feel that I've achieved something that wasn't easy, that had to be worked at, which is something for my self‑esteem I guess. If people have different values and ideas about things at least I can feel that, while I might differ, you feel that this person is no better than me, or I'm no better than them or whatever, because in another area I've achieved something too. I think I'm perhaps a bit more confident. And I guess in my views about the world I'm probably a bit more confident. I'm willing to be a bit more sure of myself.

'Something for my self-esteem' strikes a similar note to 'something for the memory banks': non-practical benefits of travel are dealt with by what might be termed private accounts set aside for each member of the family. In Mark's case, the private account included his standing among people in the neighbouring world. While reinforcing his membership of the church community, travel was seen also to give Mark an equal status with others outside it.

When talking about the effect of travel on Douglas, Mark also referred to the increased authority to speak:

He came back with a lot of stories, a lot of socialist type stories about the poverty there and the extremes in wealth and poverty and the military problems and so forth. He's a [..] church youth worker so he's sort of shared those stories quite widely. And he had a lot of contact with the churches over there as well. I guess he's always been very outspoken on social issues, and after he came back he spoke with a lot more authority on them. Perhaps a change was that he could talk about things, talk about his own experiences with various things.

Douglas elaborated the account of his travels with a description of a leadership training camp which he helps run. In an attempt to provoke discussion about social justice, Douglas shows the Hollywood film 'Missing', based on the political terror in South America. He uses this film to 'shock' people. Some of the audience attempt to cancel this shock by questioning the reality of the film. At this point, Douglas is able to confirm the truthfulness of this account and talk about his own personal experience there. One of the general points Douglas made about the effect of travel to South America was that it 'humbles' one to see the scale of human drama there: 'You couldn't go to South America without having been humbled a bit.' For Douglas, it is misguided to dwell too deeply in guilt. He felt this response was useless, and it was better to resolve this discomfort through practical forms of action. One project was to tell others of what one has seen:

I sort of used it more as a spur, well you know rather than feel guilty about it there's things I can do, I can talk to people about what I've seen and experienced, I can make sure that the issues that I've experienced there, I try to help other people see them as issues.

In anticipating different responses one might have to the South American journey, Douglas seemed to take a managerial role towards this form of travel: to best exploit it rhetorically and to advise on how it could be related to the church's ideology. In doing this he seemed to have a ready audience.

The same would apply to Mark and Stephen. Their journey to South America was seen by them as granting a license to speak on social justice issues. Stephen's experience particularly could be presented as evidence of the legitimacy of the social justice call. And Mark's story provides the church with a role in resolving the emotional anxiety caused by the gross inequalities witnessed in South America.

What of Matthew, the Cameron boy who chose not to go to South America? Matthew's account of his change contrasted the sense of possibility encouraged by travel with the sameness of life back in Melbourne:

When I came back I wasn't looking for anything except the adventure of going overseas, and when I came back I was more independent and I wanted more things out of life for myself when I came back—things that I realised that I wanted out of life. But as it happened I settled straight back into what I was doing, soon after I started nursing.

Matthew's account fits into the understanding of travel as liberating oneself from prior obligations to other's views: it enables one to organise life around one's own needs. However, the lack of any response to this at home cancelled the difference which this implied:

You come back and everyone's the same. Your friends are the same as you left them. Your friends who you previously thought were alright, you suddenly think, 'They're really young, aren't they?'

So for Matthew there was no ready audience for his stories. The possibilities which travel opened for Matthew were flying a plane, and further travel—he claimed to have the 'bug'. His future was mapped as a series of personal fulfilments.

Table 7.i Oppositions in the Cameron Travel Talk

HOME
WORLD
Dinner party Church
Enjoyment Education
People Man
Individual Collective
Europe South America
Safe Dangerous

 

Table 7.isets out the most prominent oppositions marked in the Cameron travel talk. The opposition between life at home and the family's experience of the world is represented by the contrasting conversations of dinner party and church function. While the dinner party included the stereotyped experiences of tourism, particularly to Europe, it excluded the more particular stories related to collective politics. The travel talk of the Camerons served to locate each of the members in terms of this opposition. In her life narrative, Nora was seen to resist pressures from the neighbouring world: she associated herself with what collectively 'man' can do, as opposed to individual consumption. For Douglas, the stereotyped version of travel was a stage one passed through before finding its educative potential. And while Stephen was 'converted' from the materialism of his own family to the social awareness of the church, Mark found that his experiences in South America actually gave him more confidence in the neighbouring world. Finally, Matthew allied himself with the individualistic use of travel in opposition to what he perceived was the dominant preconceptions of his family. Folded into the difference between here and there was the opposition between personal fulfilment and collective action, which was further articulated as a difference between the neighbouring world and the family.

Individuals' accounts of change through 'education' overseas entailed crossing over this difference: one finds a place for religious and political doctrine in personal experience. This experience was framed in a pendulated narrative: a sense of loss of power to change finds resolution in collective action. This sense of powerlessness was related to the contradiction between the sameness of people and the situation of endemic poverty. The resolution was demonstrated both in Christian doctrine and the manifestations of the collective efforts of 'man' overseas. It was testimony to the social justice issue that one was converted to it through exposure to South America. For the Cameron family, the change to someone from a wealthy background, like Stephen, bore witness to church doctrine. And it was by this means that individual members of the Cameron family were given an active voice in their church community, even though it sometimes excluded them from involvement with the neighbouring world.

7.2 The Pembertons

The Pemberton family consists of two parents, Graeme, a commercial scientist, his wife, Elizabeth, and four daughters, of whom the youngest is Celia. The parents were interviewed once, and Celia and her companion Jeremy were interviewed before and after their latest trip. Both parents associated travel with their own families. Elizabeth described the prominent place which travel gave her parents in their community. Her parents had travelled to Europe in 1947; on their return they had found a great deal of curiosity about how the continent had recovered from the war. Elizabeth's parents returned home to give talks and slide shows for charity functions. Graeme's father had left England when he was six years old, and would still speak of 'going home' when talking about travel to Europe. In 1980 Graeme accompanied his father back to England—the place, according to him: '...we had heard so much about'. As with the Cameron family, the Pembertons sometimes distinguished themselves from their neighbouring world by their openness to the world overseas, though the nature of this openness is quite different to the educative interests of the Camerons.

7.2.1 'Not to be content with what's around'

Elizabeth's first overseas trip was a Pacific cruise in 1963 with her family when she was 23 years old. Two years later she went with her cousin to Europe for ten months, where she got some work and travelled around the continent. She described herself then as 'inexperienced and unsophisticated'. While relating her first European trip, her husband prompted her to recall the 'highlight': an invitation to one of the Queen's tea parties at Buckingham Palace. Since that trip she had made regular excursions to USA, where her brother is working as a surgeon in California. Graeme's first overseas trip was to USA in 1969, and his first visit to Europe was in 1981.

According to Celia, her mother has done much on her own, and made financial sacrifices so that her children could have the advantage of travel, especially to seek for the things she could not have:

My mother has always travelled widely and on her own. And she goes away just about every year. [..] They want their children, who are females, to be independent. I'm sure that it would be the same if they were males. Especially my mother, she thinks with the society she grew up in, it was hard for her to do these kind of things, and she wants us to be able to do it.

Celia identified this encouragement with a desire to be part of the world, rather than be satisfied with what is given here. She interpreted this as part of her mother's strategy to grant the children a freedom to choose their life outside of marriage. Celia connected this with her own ambition to be elsewhere:

[My parents] have encouraged all of us to go wider than is here, perhaps because we're all girls and my mother in particular thought it was important for us to have an education so we wouldn't have to be married for security. So just to have something to do that we could earn money at. And encourage us to go a little bit further, not to be content with what's around, because there's just so much more that the world has to offer. I mean I'd hate to die just thinking, 'Oh, I've lived in Australia all my life. I have a circle of friends, a couple of hundred I know, and people as acquaintances and this is all I've done.' I think your life would be so empty, perhaps because, well because I've had a taste of it over there, and because my parents have always instilled this attitude in us, that there's just so much more the world has to offer than what you're doing here.

Part of this drive to aim for more than is available here was seen by Celia in her mother's encouragement to learn different languages. Elizabeth gave her reason for emphasising languages: 'I think it's important and wonderful for them to have for later in their life.' Celia said that her mother considered language to be an important prerequisite for a 'well-rounded' personality.

At the time of the interview Celia was a fourth-year Medicine student. Though Graeme claimed that he did not 'force' Celia to go into medicine, he admitted being pleased at her decision: 'I suppose any family would like to see one of them go into medicine'. Elizabeth presented Celia as a person who has 'empathy with people'. She thought this quality was a 'lack in some of the practitioners'.

The main purpose Celia gave for going to Europe was to do an Italian language course in Florence. Elizabeth saw the reason for this a concern to be able to deal with the Italian patients she would be likely to face in hospital work. When talking about the future, Celia spoke of working in a Community Health Centre in a less privileged suburb. She spent some of her trip in Europe with a fellow Medicine student, Jeremy.

7.2.2 `The tall poppy syndrome'

Part of the Pemberton travel talk involved justification of the expense of going overseas. Elizabeth and Graeme presented their decision to travel as an alternative to superfluous materialism: the options were to spend six weeks in Florence or buy a boat or a Mercedes Benz car. Despite this opposition, the development of language skills while overseas was presented as an 'investment' which would be important later in the children's lives. According to the parents, languages are considered a high priority in the family: all the daughters have learnt French and German. Celia and her sister had already been to Europe once to improve their languages.

Though the parents did not indicate any negative feeling from the neighbouring world about their travel, they did claim that there existed in Australia a lack of recognition for achievement. As proof of this situation, Elizabeth presented the case of her brother, a surgeon, who left Australia for a greater range of opportunities in the USA. They visited him almost every year.

Celia set up her own travel history against the narrow perspective of those in her neighbouring world. She referred to two groups of people. The first was a general group for whom travel overseas was not an interest: they are satisfied with life here. Against this group, Celia included herself with 'people' whose needs extend beyond what is available at home. She said:

I think for people living in Australia, there are certain people that a country like this is not enough. Not in the sense that there's not enough action, but it's so far away, and there are not many people, and everything is at such a long distance. There's the one culture. Some people just aren't happy, it's really too claustrophobic for them.

She used her mother's brother in the USA as an example of someone for whom Australia was too limited. Celia said she agreed with her mother that one of the problems with life in Australia was the 'tall poppy syndrome': any achievement which singles one out from others is cut down.

The second group included some of Celia's fellow Medicine students, who had also gone to Europe at the same time as her. Their travel goal was to see the sights without getting involved. The reason Celia gave for choosing Jeremy as a companion for part of the journey was that he was not the person likely to 'sleep in' and lose the value of the trip; they would get on well together. The other students were travelling mostly as a group. For Celia, their trip was too hurried and tourist-like. (This was the group which Marie, in the following section, was travelling with.) She reported her conversation with one of these students before their departure:

I spoke to one of them who had said, he wanted to see as much as possible. And I'm sure they did see heaps, but I don't know how they could have taken it all in.

Thus Celia defined herself against not only those who are satisfied with what is already here, but also those go overseas without becoming involved in life there. Being able to 'take in' Europe seemed to arise frequently in Celia's description of the experience of being overseas. This was one of the major differences she saw between her style of travel and the practices of others.

7.2.3 `Feeling that you belonged'

Elizabeth's descriptions of the journey to Europe in 1969 placed herself in the role of someone from the outside finding her way into the centre. There were two attitudes to this. The light-hearted side consisted of her stories of faux pas while overseas, such as refusing to take a ride offered by the French hotel because the car did not have a meter: what she thought was a taxi was actually a hotel car specially provided for her. These stories appeared to ridicule the gaucherie of an antipodean in Europe. The other attitude was more serious. Elizabeth spoke of arriving in London and being at the centre of things:

I can vividly remember, standing on Hyde Park Corner, outside the hospital there—that was before it was all changed—and I felt that I was standing at the centre of the world. I felt that here I was, just me, here, and the whole world was going past me—not that I wasn't part of it—but that I was at the centre of... everything that was happening was going on, and didn't make me feel diminished in any way, except that I had finally become part of the activity.

For Elizabeth this experience had made her realise how 'small' she was compared to what was going on in the world: 'It helped me get a perspective on life around me'. In this Europe was more important that America: in Europe, culture was to be 'absolutely imbibed'. Part of this process involved seeing historical features, particularly of Christian civilization. She described this as 'being part of history, of treading the path of people who've gone before'; it was 'heroic'. She reported that the 'worn steps' of Chartes Cathedral moved her to tears; she felt a sense of the great lengths which many people have gone to over the ages to visit this site. She said she perceived herself to be 'drawn in this thing' of human history. One of the lessons of travel, according to her, was that: 'There's a very big world out there and that we have to be part of it'. Travel, in this sense, was an experience to take one out of normal life, and make one part of a universal narrative—to be part of the world.

Complementary to the sense of finding one's way 'into' Europe was the feeling of being 'enclosed' by it. Elizabeth advised that the best way to travel was to let the experience 'flow over you'; this involves meeting people, leaving prejudices behind, and enjoying the differences. She claimed that one of her favourite features of Europe was Romanesque churches; these made her feel 'spiritual'; they 'envelop you', and 'close around you'. This idea of envelopment was the strongest theme in the Pemberton travel talk. When Celia was describing one of her most intense memories of Europe she emphasised the experience of being immersed. It occurred during her first trip to Europe when she studied languages with her elder sister. She described her sister as relatively shy, and very upset after her first day at school when she was laughed at by strange children. Celia found herself very pleased at her own ability to find her way around the German town they were living in. At one stage she found her way into a forest:

My sister was constantly wanting to go into the town, whereas I always wanted to go out into the forest. And I remember walking in, and the quiet, the quiet was almost deafening, if you can understand what I mean, cos it was so alive. And you look up and there was snow all over the trees, and you were sinking in the snow. And the day was bright, but it was cloudy on and off. And you sit there and I just felt so enveloped by the whole situation. I felt so, so excited and so, so happy and comfortable and everything, and I felt so, almost shaking it's just so good. And you just sort of sit there and you're looking up, and you're looking up at the trees with the snow on them, and you're looking around and not seeing anything. And hearing nothing and at the same moment hearing everything. It's sort of so loud. At that time I felt that I was taking a lot in, and I must have been and I didn't want to forget that moment, and I could see that that's the kind of thing you just don't forget.

Celia presents herself in a paradoxical space where categories of experience are confused: the day is 'bright' and 'cloudy'; the forest has a 'quiet' which is 'deafening'; she is 'looking' and she is 'not seeing anything'; she is 'hearing' and she is 'not hearing anything'. Finally, the experience is described as 'taking a lot in'—an experience that she 'didn't want to forget'. In the forest opposites are seen to confront each other, rather than be separated by space and time. What does Celia do with this experience? Celia attaches to this forest episode a significance that extends to her travel experience in general.

She associates this episode with three different meanings. This first is with a sense of competence achieved while in Europe. Later in the travel talk, she elaborated the forest experience in these terms:

I remember once we were in Germany and all these beautiful, in the forest and all the trees, and just the feeling that here you were and this is what it was like and this is how nice it is, and I remember once the same kind of thing in Paris, just feeling that you really know. The best feeling that I ever had was that I really knew the place, that I really knew how people thought and what they were thinking, and that I could get on in there and stay there if I wanted. The feeling of pure comfort of knowing and understanding—I'm sure I didn't understand everything that was going on, every aspect of the culture—just feeling that you belonged.

The 'knowledge' attached to the experience was associated with 'pure comfort' and belonging. Getting to know the place and its people offered her the security of being a member. In her latest trip, she described her aim to be in Florence while 'not sticking out'—being accepted as part of the city. This involvement in Europe was contrasted elsewhere with the tourist experience, which was seen as located on the 'outside' of local cultures.

Celia's particular eligibility as 'member' of European culture was related to her grasp of languages. According to Celia, this gave her the opportunity of being totally absorbed in the experience of being overseas:

And it's just so nice to be able to go there and I know what to speak and I know what to expect. And I know about the history, so I know [...] what I will be able to see if I want to go and see things. In a way I see it as escapism, and pure craving for that, pure craving for this full immersion, this full swallowing up of the person.

Celia here does not relate the experience of being overseas to any objective she might have at home: rather, it is 'escapism'. As such, the pleasure of this 'immersion' is associated with knowing what to do: 'I know what to expect'.

The second association with the forest experience was her continuing travel practice of imbibing local knowledge and culture. In her latest tour of Europe, she claimed that her greater freedom and adult capacity had enabled her to find herself involved in more local scenes. She contrasted her practice of 'being still' in a place with the tourist habit of 'seeing the sights'. She spoke of what mattered to her during her last trip:

Being able to go away on weekends and just sit somewhere and just stay there. Being able to go into a museum and just sit down, and just sort of almost hold myself. You just almost want to hug yourself. You sort of want to put your arms around yourself and squeeze yourself hard because you're just feeling so, wow, everything about you is so open and you're constantly taking things in, it's like breathing really deeply all the time. And I felt that that experience about Germany sticks in my mind.

The ecstatic experience in the forest can be reproduced in other settings while overseas. In cultural institutions such as museums, this special feeling was attached to European art and architecture, and gave particular significance to the historical narratives which they embody.

The third association with the experience of immersion was the construction of a paradox involving the existence of others. Celia spoke of the strangeness of meeting people from such foreign contexts (people who would not have existed for her without travel):

And it's just all the experiences that you're getting, and you're constantly taking from them, draining them of their experiences, just taking them in. And you wonder whether you're giving that much back, whereas I don't feel I get that kind of thing from people I meet here.

Celia drew a line between her interaction with people overseas and her dealings with them here. 'Meeting the people' for Celia was not finding out the truth behind the myth. Rather, it was being able to make contact with that myth, particularly the world of the historical past. By meeting them she felt she was able to establish some more immediate connection with the Europe of history:

I don't want to sound too corny, it's like stepping through a window into another time. I know it's the same time and the same things are happening but I felt so privileged just to be able to look around and be in their lives: walking past somebody in the street and buying something from somebody in the shop. It's quite amazing when somebody from the other side of the world that doesn't really speak the language can go there and do that kind of thing.

She related this difference to the recognition that deep down people are the 'same': they had no knowledge of our existence just as we had no knowledge of theirs. Though they might differ on how lives should be lived and have different values, Celia found the common ground in the logic that just as she thought others had not existed before she went overseas, so others had the same feeling about her.

The feeling of envelopment ascribed to the forest episode was thus linked by Celia to three features of her travel experience: the feeling of security attached to gaining knowledge necessary to become a member of the community; being still in places of culture while others pass by; and making contact with the distant world of history through meeting people. At no time did Celia draw links between this episode and life at home. How, then, was life at home affected by travel overseas?

7.2.4 `I've become more myself'

In her account of her first trip to Europe, Elizabeth described a feeling of disappointment at being back in Melbourne. She attributed this to her decision to go back home and live with her parents. 'In retrospect' she claimed, 'I should never have gone to live back home'. Rather, she said, she should have carried on with the independence she had achieved while overseas. One change which she did comment on was breaking up with her boyfriend of the time. Elizabeth found that: 'He couldn't understand me at all when I got back'. When talking about Celia, her mother commented that travel had not changed her, though it had made her more mature, and shown her that doing medicine is not 'all your life'. For Elizabeth, Celia's travel was not a means to an end: it enabled her to 'indulge' an interest in languages.

When Celia talked about how travel had changed her, she spoke purely at the level of her image of herself. One change which she had noticed was a capacity to go about on her own:

I think in a way I've noticed that in myself. Like the time when I was having to cope with things that at home that I would have constantly fallen back into the comfort of my parents, or discussed it with people. When I was on my own, you go through these things, because you have to, and then afterwards, you think that wasn't really as hard as I though it would be and I'm really pleased that I was able to do that. And think, 'Gosh I must...', in a way sort of think you must be a better person for it, cos you know you can achieve that kind of strength when you really need it.

The way Celia described her success, she did not refer to the experience 'adding' to her strengths, but rather giving her confidence that the strength was 'there' when she needed it. This strength was manifest in the capacity to go alone without the 'comfort' of parental assistance. Part of the consequences of this discovery was, like her mother, the break-up of a relationship:

I have broken up with the boy that I was going out with for two years. It gives me a buzz now, that I feel that, whereas last year, I felt that I, we, well, I was getting too dependent on him. I feel so much that I'm not going out with him, but I've become more of myself.

Ceasing the relationship was depicted by her as a kind of liberation from an image of herself that was bound to another person. In this, Celia was repeating her mother's experience.

In discussing her first European trip, Celia described feeling proud that she was able to impress her parents with her local knowledge, such as being able to direct their taxi driver to the right location. During her second trip, she claimed an ability to appreciate of medieval and Renaisance art, and to have lessened her enthusiasm for the Impressionists. She also talked about a relaxed sense of the possibilities of life present in Italian life, such as the way they park their cars in the middle of the street. The experience of Europe was partly spoken of as the breaking down of the habits of thought that operate in her neighbouring world.

Celia's advice to others on travel was simple: go to Europe. She presented it as an 'enlightening and invigorating experience', 'there's nothing like it'. Though she felt it was difficult to explain to someone who had not been there what it was like, she felt that nonetheless she could inspire someone else to go there. She contrasted her experience in Europe with a friend (Marie) she was 'very close to' who travelled in a group. Celia differentiated her own slow and effortful attempts to search out things with Marie's quick and superficial tour of Europe.

Her infiltration of Europe, however, had only a limited audience outside the family. Celia felt that those who talked about travel were 'boring and pretentious', and she did not want 'to sound as though “I've been to Europe”'. At the same time she said she felt distressed when returning to Melbourne; it seemed as though she had never left, and she realised that the life here was not for her.

Her travel companion Jeremy expressed a similar reluctance to talk about his travel to others here. For him, this cancelled any proclamation of difference he felt was possible:

I feel as though, while I have the same habits, I have a different perspective on them, and I don't feel as tied into them, perhaps that is the significant change. But I don't think it is that significant a change that I should go round bragging to all my friends, that 'I've just gone overseas and I've gone OS, and I've seen this this this and this and as a result I'm a different person'. I find anyone who says they're a different person often pretty obnoxious, I just don't like the idea of someone saying 'Well I'm a different person now'.

Jeremy presented his change as lacking any valid authorization. Any attempt to gain reflection of change from friends would amount to 'bragging'. Like Celia, Jeremy did not find an audience outside the family by which any sense of change overseas can be recognised.

For both Celia and her mother, Europe has a special significance. It provides a stage on which one can connect with the past and one can imagine oneself in the 'centre' of things. Within this common frame, though, there was an important difference: though her mother experienced being an outsider in Europe, Celia reported exclusively incidents where she was taken in by Europe—not particularly in direct human contacts, but in feelings of envelopment in the environment and recognitions of local competence. It is possible that Celia's reports of ecstatic experiences of belonging are related to her mother's stories of being on the outside of European society in her first overseas trip. Celia's involvement in the daily life of Europeans is thus a transcendence of what for her parents had been an unbreachable barrier.

Table 7.ii Oppositions in the Pemberton Travel Talk

HOME
WORLD
Australia Europe
Medicine Languages
Outsider Member
Limits Possibilities

Table 7.ii lays out four pairs of opposites highlighted in the Pemberton travel talk. Folded into the geographical difference between Australia and Europe are many levels of difference. The first is a difference between an environment which is limited to what is known and a world of possibilities. The second applies this difference to types of people: there are those who are content to remain on the outside as tourists, while there are others who through local knowledge become included in life in Europe. And third, as well as making a difference between people, this opposition between Australia and Europe also marks a distinction within the individual. So for Celia, medicine conforms to the limits of practical life at home, while expertise in European languages is an indulgence that fills out her personality and grants new possibilities. Finding her way around Europe is a demonstration of Celia's independence, and thus enables her to be more confident in her commitments at home.

7.3 The Ryans

The Ryan family consists of two parents, John an engineer, and Jan, a teacher, and four children, one of whom is Marie, a third-year Medicine student and friend of Celia Pemberton (see page 23). Neither of the Ryan parents had travelled until 1968, when John went to work in South-East Asia. In 1981 the parents went on their first European tour. The collection of the Ryan's travel talk began with Marie, once before her European trip and again after her return; this was followed by talk with her parents and with the group of friends who accompanied her.

7.3.1 `For the reason of natural love and affection'

All the Ryan children have travelled. They have been to the USA, South Korea, Hong Kong, and of course, Europe. Jan characterised the family in terms of it's shared interest in travel:

It bound us together as a family. Over the last three years we all had a common thing. When we come back, we talk about things we'd experienced that other people hadn't. So those were the experiences to bind the group together when they have them and no other group has them. It's a strange combination in this family cos we're very close as a family, but we don't do anything together. We live together very happily, but when we go out we do things with other people. [...] But we all are very close in the sense that we believe that we like each other better than most other people, then that's a very strange combination. We're not a bit cliquey. Anybody's welcome to come in, but we just talk a lot. We communicate very actively. We're always arguing. We don't find that any problem.

Jan claimed that her two sons had very little in common, and would in fact rarely talk to each other, yet this did not disturb the togetherness of the family.

Marie is the youngest of the family. Her trip to Europe was decided with three other friends: two fellow Medicine students and a secretary. Her father talked about her trip as a necessary break in the demanding Medicine course. John financially supported Marie's trip. Although John said this decision lay outside normal financial management, he incorporated it within the same 'title' as his first purchase of land for the family home:

I bought a block of land just after I was engaged—it was either in your name or fiance's name as well—and I was able to transform it to a joint name for 'the reason of natural love and affection'. And that always stuck in my mind. And I suppose from the same point of view I'm happy to look at that as the reason for [Marie] having, not exactly a reward, but something that would be a highlight in her life, and also provide an impetus if she is finding the going hard. And I'm not being all that mindful that she owes me x thousand dollars. 13½% is it? [laugh] I'm sure she'd be aware of it too, cos she's a very caring person.

John associated Marie's choice to travel with other decisions that have involved a bond which exists outside the normal public world of economic accountability. It is worth noting that the reason John gave for Marie's travel was that it be a 'highlight' in her life, and so to encourage her to continue the labour of a Medicine degree. His stated hope was not that she increased her independence. Nor was it contrasted with the more materialistic concerns of other people (it was presented as an exception to individual property that lay within the laws of the neighbouring world). Instead, John anticipated that Marie would experience a sense of the sublime, recapitulating his encounter with Europe. Though Marie rarely mentioned a sublime experience in her travel talk, she did allocate a place in her medical training for phenomena that exist outside of practical interest.

Before going overseas, the words Marie used to describe herself were: 'naïve'; a 'fairly good-natured person'; 'happy'; confident 'but not overly'; and likes 'meeting people'. Her views on Medicine were ambivalent. She claimed to enjoy Medicine as an exercise in problem-solving (Maths was her favourite subject at school) and found the psychological side too 'airy-fairy'. However, along with this instrumentalist attitude to medical practice, Marie claimed that she placed importance on the personal contact in patient care, and she preferred talking with people than operating on them. Marie asserted that it is good to involve oneself in the moral issues of medicine, though she expressed doubt about her capacity to articulate their seriousness:

The actual issues in medicine are also very important, and I think that a lot of the time they're ignored. And I think it's important to me that I do become a doctor in a way, cos I'd like to have some influence, not for myself but for what I believe in. Probably sounds very moral [laugh] sounds very dumb when you say it out loud sometimes.

K.M.:Why?

Marie:It sounds like the sort of things that I read in books sometimes. That I laugh at. It's amazing the words that you use. When you actually just feel it, but then when you actually say. Sounds quite amusing.

This excerpt indicates a conflict in Marie's picture of medicine between its rational and moral dimensions: the technical problems of curing people and the ethical problems of the application of that knowledge in particular cases. (See page 41 for discussion of this dualism.) Marie was similarly hesitant about the seriousness of her travel.

7.3.2 `I want just a holiday'

John Ryan felt that he was not as well travelled as a lot of other people. He contrasted his thin travel history with a unionist friend who travelled regularly around the world to find out for himself what was happening in the international labour scene. Jan's most recent travel had been to Japan, as part of a Catholic school association. She described her involvement in the association: 'It's just like this family here. It's a common bond. It's always there and stabilises your life.' The prime motivation the parents gave for their current plans to travel were to see their other children who were working in different parts of the world.

Marie provided two contrasts with her own travel. The first was against Celia's lone journey. She talked about Celia's language course and said that she was not at that level of seriousness: 'I'm not at that stage yet. [laugh] I want just, like a holiday.' Marie described the other friends of hers that she had met travelling on their own in Europe as unhappy and lonely; she thought that travelling with others was much more pleasant. On the other hand, the group Marie travelled with characterised the individuals who went on organised tours around Europe as tired and disoriented with the constant labour of sightseeing.

The most often cited motive for travelling to Europe was excitement and pleasure. By contrast, there were those who travelled with too much seriousness—those who made it a business rather than 'relaxed into it'. Despite this holiday frame for travel, there were serious points made about the overseas experience.

7.3.3 'Nothing's going to happen to us'.3 `Nothing's going to happen to us'

John had many things to say about what makes Europe different from Australia. While he noted that the Europeans did not have the same suburban life that exists in Australia, he found them very self-absorbed. John mentioned reading about a train crash in Austria when he returned to Australia that had gone completely unnoticed while he was there. When asked to single out what makes Europe different from other overseas destinations John identified 'history' as being what grants Europe a unique status. By contrast, a holiday spot like Surfer's Paradise was...

...lacking the association with part of the world that history tells you is special. I think Europe is special, certainly for Australian people: we have close ties with it. The white Caucasians have associations with it. We know a fair bit about it from films, media, reading about it. It's still something that's historically important to Australians. I can't help admitting that seeing the historical aspects, in Rome for example, I've read about the Colosseum and the Roman forum. And no matter how many pictures I've seen—the National Geographic—and how many stories I've read or films I saw of Christians going to the lions [..] seeing the actual, sort of strolling around and getting used to the whole idea of this time of the world. I found that had quite an impact on me.

John's description of European travel referred to a set of images and stories that are normally set aside as 'special', i.e., not part of normal life yet something to do with how that life evolved. In travel space these stories become part of life again: what is usually read in books or seen in films is in Europe something one can walk around and breathe in. This 'special' experience was something which John felt Marie might also have felt:

And my impression listening to [Marie] is that she had a similar sort of feeling. Those things are also important to her: the fact that you've been there.

The other 'special' association which John claimed with Europe was the apprehension of natural spectacle, particularly the Swiss Alps. This appreciation had both a personal and collective dimension. John identified this enjoyment of nature with his 'romantic side', something that might not be taken totally seriously. This 'romance' was linked to the story of divine creation:

I suppose too I've always thought that I think it is a creation, that it's not a gratuitous geological space. I think it really is a creation, and I appreciate it from that point of view. I look on it as a work of art. [...] If I see a map or, say, a book I don't get excited to that extent, but I've seen picture postcards, but to actually see it. I'm not sure why. Just hopping up there in the clouds, the clouds flow over one another, spill into a valley and fill that up and flow up the other side. It's really majestic and very thrilling. I did get that way with some of the sights. Just the odd occasion. Whatever range of mountains, I tend to look at them as one of those geographic features that I appreciate. I like to walk through them. Very satisfying visual impression, [pause] rather frivolous I suppose. But it's travelling in holiday time, for enjoyment. For example, I'd rather be walking through the ranges than walking through the museum.

Though John intimated the presence of a grand narrative in the 'creation' of the alps, in his travel talk this reading is kept aside at the end in favour of a more 'frivolous' evaluation of the experience. By associating it with 'holiday time' his experience becomes a personal indulgence—'very satisfying visual impression'—which has little pragmatic or collective value. Nevertheless, the expectation that this personal feeling might be passed on to Marie appeared important to John.

One of the similarities which travel demonstrated for John was in the traits of people found overseas. Here he asserted a basic common concern for family as something which links different people together. For example, he talked about an Asian pilot being worried about his children:

He flew from Singapore, but he was a Hong Kong pilot, and yet he was a worried man because he was concerned about his family in Hong Kong. What was going to happen to them in Hong Kong? China at that stage making strong overtures about taking over Hong Kong. But he had his business worries, his political worries, his family worries, just like people that we deal with in work in Australia. I think the similarity in character was forceful.

John's narrative presents the discovery of a universal concern. Even though the people one meets overseas may be of different race, one can still find common causes of concern on which to work. John qualified this sameness, though, by talking about the strong pull he felt on hearing the Australian accent while travelling in Europe.

Like John, Jan referred to a grand narrative beyond her personal experience of Europe. In her case the narrative of creation concentrated on cultural more than natural features. One of her projects in England was to tour the Lakes District and evoke the experiences of Wordsworth and Coleridge. About Venice, she described the 'tremendous' sense of being in 'something out of a grand opera', with the sounds of heels on cobblestones.

As well as the reference to a civilized order, Jan also saw in travel the possibility of anarchy. She claimed that she often evaluated other countries in terms of their orderliness—not orderliness for it's own sake, but so that she can 'live out', 'it's a failsafe device'. In London the order was 'admirable', while the chaos in Rome she said she found 'fascinating'. In talking about travel to South America she thought that seeing the Aztec ruins would be interesting, though she was worried that: '...the sense of order is lost. There is no pattern to govern what will happen'. She described Spain as a country: '...where someone can die quite quietly and no one would care.' In Jan's construction of travel space there was a dualism operating between the common bond that unites people and the lack of order governing relations between people (one might say that the stripping away of roles which reveals the common bond also loosens the reins on disorder).

According to Jan travel demonstrated both the links that bind people together and what makes them different. In giving her reasons why travel was important she mentioned both aspects:

I think it's important to preserve in some way, things that remind people of the fact that they have links, which go way back, that what we are now is only along the line, a continuum. So I suppose that's one of the reasons I see it as important. I think that the other thing is that I just find it fascinating to know about the way other people do things. I have my way of doing things, I don't particularly want to tell people about that. I don't think it's better than any other way. I know my way. But I'm fascinated by the way other people do things. And I suppose that I'm fascinated by the fact that historically there have been so many people who have done so many things, and I find it completely mysterious, and terribly interesting. And, I think, things that show the wonderful things we have done.

History appears to be a story that is positive in terms of what it has to say about human character, and its persistence through hardship—'the wonderful things we have done'. Jan's reading of overseas appeared to be assimilated more within a narrative that links people together than the private satisfaction of travel noted by John.

Marie's talk of overseas seemed to resemble John's split between romantic Europe and serious life at home. In framing her travels, Marie made much of the separation between home and overseas. In anticipating her European trip Marie said that she was: '...looking forward to being in a country where I don't understand anything.' She thought that this would be the 'most fantastic experience'. Marie associated this 'unknown' with 'learning things', things not seen before: '...like in Switzerland: snow capped mountains, and breathtaking views, and everything, little castles.' After her trip, Marie described her stay in Europe as 'like a real dreamworld'. She felt the freedom to do whatever she wanted. She said that it made her wonder how easily this feeling could translate here, especially if people from Europe were to come to Australia:

I often wonder actually what it would be like if they came, because a few of them said they're coming to Australia. Cos it's [Europe] such a romantic atmosphere: it's like a dream and everything's great and wonderful. But then I wonder if they came here, what it would be like.

While overseas she met a Swiss pilot, but she described their relationship as simply a 'train romance'. When talking about the possibility that she had 'fallen in love' overseas, she added a preposition to this phrase and claimed that she instead had 'fallen in love with overseas'. This reconstructed phrase appears to stabilise the potential disruption of the journey to life back home: 'overseas' is not likely to make the same demands as would a real person.

Most of the stories which Marie told demonstrated the trust one can have in others. One narrative which Marie and her group related was finding themselves by mistake in the red light district of Vienna, and not being able to find their way to the Youth Hostel. She told the story:

We turned up 10 o'clock at night in Vienna and we couldn't find the youth hostel, and we went into the red light district. We didn't know we were in the red light district for a while, until we discovered that there were about three prostitutes on every corner and they all had like boots up to here [knees], and little leather jackets and like little stockings, and there were all these cars, mag wheel cars, going up and cruising up and down. And we were waiting on a corner trying to work out where we were. And this Mercedes with tinted windows and big mag wheel cruising up and down and kept turning around, smaller and smaller circle, right near us. And of course, we're all getting really scared, and being stupid. And then we bumped into someone who didn't look like a mugger or a basher or a prostitute [laugh] and said, 'Oh, we're looking for the youth hostel.' And all they could say to us was, 'What are you doing here? What are you doing here?' And that got us really scared. And eventually we were standing outside a restaurant, don't ask me why, a really nice looking restaurant, in the middle of this most grotty area, and this nice couple were going in and so we said, 'Oh we're looking for the youth hostel.' And they didn't know, and they were meeting some friends, and they started calling all these people, about 15 or 20 people on the corner, ...going 'Wos junken hammock?', you know, 'Where's the youth hostel?'

Eventually, after going to a Police Station, Marie and her friends found the youth hostel. The successful outcome of this incident reinforced the confidence which they had in the possibility that strangers would come to their aid if they were in difficulty. Marie said:

Once we'd found those people, who were really nice, I felt like it didn't matter what happened. And I always felt like nothing would happen to us. I don't know. I went through the whole of Europe thinking, 'Nothing's going to happen to us', and nothing really did.

Marie did not claim that this kindness was a general feature of everyone's experience of travel. There were others she met who did not find this. Nor did she want to say whether or not this difference was simply a matter of what one looks for overseas. What difference was this experience seen to make in Marie's life?

7.3.4 `It set the seal'

For John, Marie's change was a gain in maturity: 'I would say, it sounds corny, but she's much more mature and more settled.' This change was manifest particularly in her increased knowledge about others: 'She understands a bit more about people.' John pointed to the large range of people that she met and was able to get on with. The other difference noted by John was related to his original idea in encouraging Marie to travel as an incentive for her study. He found that she returned inspired to travel more and he could identify with this experience: 'It's something that she's still relishing, just as I still relished having travelled.'

Jan, however, claimed that people never change. The effect of overseas was not to alter one's nature but to 'develop facets of it'. In this sense, the possibilities open to one are not changed as a result of going overseas, but the awareness of it is greater. Jan spoke of the effect of travel for herself while in South East Asia:

I was immediately asked would I teach English at the university. I had a degree so I was acceptable for the academic staff and met a friend who was an Australian married to a Javanese who was Indian. [...] Everybody did my housework, my children got looked after, and I went off, so OK I had something new. Now when I taught I hadn't been a teacher. I found that I was actually I was a natural teacher. I could teach people. I had a knack, that made people want to learn.

Basically for Jan, travel had the power to reveal aspects of character that were not evident previously:

[Travel] gives you new insight on to who you are and what you can do. [...] It can change the course of your life, but I don't think it will change you as a person. It will only bring on in more detail, in greater emphasis the things you are, and I guess that's why some people are frightened cos they don't really like what they are. Travel reveals very strongly.

Travel in this sense is like a test. The importance Jan placed also on being a good representative of both one's culture and oneself while overseas similarly draws on this understanding of travel as a stage for demonstrating who one is. If successful, Jan felt this experience can increase one's social standing.

In regard to Marie, Jan felt that travel had not changed her, but enabled her to discover who she was:

[Marie] was at the stage in life where she was not really sure that she was as capable as she really is. And I think it was like a finishing off school for her. Because when she got away she found that she was probably the most competent of them all. She also found that, everybody, of course [laugh], wanted to know her: male, female, or otherwise. People were trailing all over Europe after her. So I think it set the seal on the fact that she realises that she's in many ways quite an exceptional sort of person. I don't think she'd see herself as very different [...] It didn't change her so much as it showed her exactly what she was like. [...] It creates awareness of self rather than change. Doesn't change the person. And I think that it's more in relation to yourself than other people. So I don't think that it changed her attitude to people at all, it just made her realise how skilful she was.

The theory of change that Jan presented here limits the possibilities of change overseas to the picture one has of oneself rather than one's underlying nature. The change in this case is seen to be a liberating one; where Marie might have been doubtful of her capacities before, now she can have confidence in them: it 'set the seal' on them.[2]

Marie was similarly hesitant about the effect of travel. When asked before she travelled whether she would change, Marie claimed that it would 'open her eyes' but not change her. The differences made by travel were often seen through her parents eyes. On her return, Marie thought that her parents considered her more independent after overseas, though this was not referred to as a 'change'. She said her father became 'inspired' listening to her stories and got out maps to follow her account. Marie said that she was aware of how her father might be worried about her while she was overseas so she deliberately gave him a 'glossy' account: 'Mum thought it was hysterical, but mum's like that. Dad was a bit more practical I think.' To remember her trip, she had decided to keep the letters she sent to her parents as a diary.

Table 7.iii Oppositions in the Ryan Family Travel Talk

HOME
WORLD
Order Chaos
Present History
Practical Romantic
Work Incentive
Technology Ethics

Several of the most obvious oppositions of the Ryan travel talk are given in Table 7.iii. Folded into the difference between home and world are oppositions that distinguish between and within individuals. Between individuals, overseas was identified as a space in which one gains contact with the past: it presents a picture of origins and their ongoing development over time. Within individuals, one's own investment in overseas is cast as a 'romantic' interest, separate from the more practical demands of normal life. This difference is homologous to the ethical-technical dimension of medicine: in both oppositions Marie and her father spoke of difficulty taking the less rational one of the pair—romance or ethics—seriously. The seriousness at stake concerned the degree to which one should allow the less rational side to interfere with normal life. Whereas for Jan, the common bond between people revealed overseas was something that she could incorporate into her concerns at home. In terms of Marie's individual development, John saw this division as corresponding to phases of work and pleasure: the 'special' experience of overseas was presented as a glimpse of something more, something to 'relish', that would complement the routine of the Medicine course. However, the change which Marie talked about followed her mother's idea that overseas was a place that revealed one's possibilities. Her current interest in cardiac medicine was traced to the travel episode in two ways: cardiac medicine combined the practical with the 'people side' for which she showed talent in her encounters with strangers, and she met an American student of cardiac medicine who gave her encouragement.

The basic difference running through the Ryan's travel talk was between phenomena that could be accounted through mean-end rationality and experiences that revealed significant forces in the world. Individual career partook of the familiar order of practical action while overseas travel represented the possibility of linking this order to a primary force, whether it is the power of natural creation or the common human spirit. The way the practical and expressive were separated suggested that overseas served more to reassure one of the existence of a purpose to life rather than to change life at home.

7.4 Discussion

The travel talk of these three families provides much information about the operations of narrative partitioning. In this section I will point to the most significant: the separation of contrasting forms of life; instruction on how to enter an unfamiliar environment; the formation of group identity; and the construction of individual identity.

7.4.1 Contrasting forms of life

All three families enunciated an evaluation of travel which presented it in an economic framework. Before looking at the more developed link between the expressive and practical meanings of travel, it is important to acknowledge the presence of this purely practical way of making sense. The Cameron, Pemberton and Ryan families resided in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, which are often seen as typifying the values of home ownership and consumerism. In these terms, the expenditure involved in travel overseas is extravagant. It is with this potential judgement in mind that the practical evaluation of travel can be read. For the Camerons, travel was justified at the cost of household maintenance as an activity that stores up the 'memory bank'. The memory and proficiency with language for the Pembertons made travel a form of 'investment' for later life. And John Ryan found a clause within property management ('For the reason of natural love and affection') that could deal with the financial irregularity involved in the loan to his daughter. In all families, therefore, travel was presented as a seeming extravagance to be accounted for partly through a metaphor of economic management.

A second form of justification referred to biographical construction. The Camerons attached a personal value to travel as a venue in which one satisfies 'life's dreams'. Travel for the Pembertons was necessary for an 'all-round' education, satisfying particularly the cultural needs not catered for in Medicine. And John Ryan presented travel for his daughter as an incentive necessary to help her survive the rigours of study for Medicine. This form of accountability links travel to the practice of consumption: life is constructed so that one finds personal enjoyment in a sphere of activity which is separate from one's daily labours.

These two kinds of justification indicate an accounting function in travel talk. Why travel when materially it is certainly more prudent to remain at home accumulating financial and educational capital? Yet these justifications do more than simply answer this question. They also partition home and world according to specific principles.

The economic evaluation of travel indicates the presence of forms of narrative partitioning. For both the Camerons and Pembertons, the experience of overseas is an investment from which one gains later in life, whereas for the Ryans it stands apart from practical affairs altogether. Though this difference is more complex in terms of narrative partitioning, it still holds at a gross level. The dominant way of differentiating between life and travel for the Camerons was in the separation between the familiar world of personal satisfaction and the disturbing experience of the limits of human life: identifying with suffering overseas prompts recognition of the need for and possibility of collective action. For the Pembertons this difference was made between the constraints of work and the challenge of finding one's way into the centre: the capacity to travel around Europe provides a necessary supplement to the common business of medicine. Yet for the Ryans, the dominant influence of travel is not in the direction of one's life: the continuous work of life at home is contrasted with the knowledge gained overseas of beginning and end points.

Table 7.iv Narrative Partitioning in the Three Families

  EXPRESSIVE PRACTICAL
Camerons Political Personal
Pembertons Cultural Career
Ryans Moral Technical

Each of these cases of narrative partitioning deals with a separation of contrasting forms of life. Table 7.ivpresents the major forms of narrative partitioning in each of the families. In the Cameron family, political activity on a collective level is contrasted with the personal fulfilment of individual goals. For the Pembertons, cultural consumption is contrasted with the development of a career in medicine. And in the case of the Ryans, the moral questions of the purpose of medical practice are set against the technical problems of achieving an optimal result. These pairs differ along the expressive-practical dimension. The first concerns larger values which are seen to set the limits of the immediate world: it represents the expressive domain, what is given. Whereas the second deals in the attainment of specific ends: this is the practical, what can be taken. The critical problem for each of these pairs is how to relate them together: with limited resources of time and money one must choose in a given situation whether to consume or produce. What happens in travel talk is that expressive and practical domains are attached to different 'spaces'. The construction of travel space makes it possible to attach the first term of the pair to life overseas while the second resides in the neighbouring world of the family. Experiences overseas are talked about as demonstrations of what is possible in contrast to the neighbouring world, where the ends are fixed. One of the operations of narrative partitioning is thus to regulate the circulation of meaning between these two domains. Further speculation about this operation will be presented in Chapter Eight.

7.4.2 How to enter an unfamiliar environment

It would be a mistake to think of narrative partitioning as a purely theoretical practice. As was evident in Chapter Six, much of travel talk consisted of 'giving advice' on how to deal with strangers while overseas. 5 shows how each of the families examined in this chapter can be characterised as encouraging a certain attitude that one should adopt in an unfamiliar environment: what to look for and who to trust.

Table 7.v Travel Practice in the Three Families

  TRAVEL PRACTICE LINKAGE
Camerons Speak to the people Bringing home
Pembertons Blend in with people Leaving home
Ryans Look at the people Release from home

For the Camerons, the recommended approach was to speak to the people. Though this entailed a sense of inclusion and trust in foreigners, it also involved an exchange of differences. By this means, the 'people's' point of view could then be brought back to one's home audience. Examples of this were the links with doctors in Ecuador which enabled Stephen to talk to others here about the conditions of medicine in third world countries, and the type of family life Nora found in China that demonstrated social organisations alternative to those found here. Speaking to the people may be seen as a subversive act: it goes below the surface of official reality to find out what people 'really' think. What is discovered then becomes material for arguments made on behalf of the cause of social justice.

For the Pembertons there was less return from the overseas experience. The emphasis was not on the confrontation with strangers but rather one's assimilation into their community: to blend in with the people. Rather than be seen as a guest, it is better to be seen as one of 'them'. Of course, this does not deny the possibility that one might return with information gained while overseas, but this was not part of the overt purpose of travel. A contrast to this form of inclusion is finding oneself on the outside of European culture. This was the sense of the stories told by Elizabeth of her first European journey: Europe was a spectacle of which she did not possess the knowledge required to enter. By contrast with the Camerons, overseas for the Pembertons was a test of competence: one measures up to European culture in order to be accepted.

For the Ryans, the possibility of entry into the overseas world was never entertained. Sites and spectacles were to be sought after for the emotions they would evoke: splendour, amusement, excitement, etc. These objects were not likely to talk back to the viewer: one was there to look at the people. Marie talked initially about her desire to be somewhere totally other, where she had no idea what was being talked about. This is the reverse of Celia's hope to gain inside knowledge of life overseas. The contact with people for Marie was mostly with fellow tourists; her 'romance' with a Swiss man was a personal affair: there was no moral point that could be drawn from this relationship. As she stated, she did not fall in love overseas, she fell in love 'with' overseas. Marie offered no definite point of entry into normal life for the specific events that occurred overseas.

The three families thus had quite different ways of relating to overseas. Of course, there were some similarities. Seeing the sites was also important for the Cameron family, and John Ryan cited his conversation with a Hong Kong pilot. Nevertheless, the general expectations given by the parents to their children seemed quite different. For a Cameron the idea was to keep one's eyes open to details related to social justice; the Pemberton objective was to gain skills in handling oneself overseas; and Marie Ryan was encouraged to 'relish' the experience. These three approaches can be contrasted in terms of the circulation of meaning regulated by narrative partitioning. Generally: Camerons were overseas to bring home the experience; Pembertons were there to leave home behind; and Ryans found overseas as a limited release from life at home.

7.4.3 Formation of family identity

The discussion thus far has assumed that the members of the family can be identified by a common form of narrative partitioning. The picture is clearly more complex than this. There are contingencies both between and within these families. Travel talk contains a dialogue between the values espoused within the family and opposing points of view in outside groups: the travel talk entails an argument between the families. And within families, the constructions of overseas experience can be read in terms of historical difference.

I wish here to point to the presence of a conversation that exists beyond the level of the family. The families did not always present themselves as being in total agreement about the nature of travel. Each family bore evidence of the presence of an alternative travel practice. Matthew's restless curiosity, particularly about Europe, was not included within the dominant Cameron values of social justice. It is possible that Matthew would have felt more at home in the Pemberton family, where his desire to be elsewhere would be granted an audience. In a different manner, Celia's and Marie's ideas about travel seemed constructed in a form of dialogue with each other. Celia presented her interest in penetrating the surface of travel as a contrast to Marie's busy itinerary. And Marie's identification of travel with group conviviality was differentiated from lonely travellers like Celia. Therefore, it would be a mistake to assume that each of the forms of travel talk specific to these families exist in isolation from each other. It is possible to see each of the family's conversation about travel as part of a more general conversation within their wider community. Each bears a response to the other in its expression.

Table 7.vi Moves Within the History of the Three Families

  INDIVIDUAL MOVES WITHIN FAMILY
Camerons Matthew turns Nora's nonconformity against family
Pembertons Celia restores displacement of previous generations from European centre
Ryans Marie reproduces John's experience of sublime

Besides a conversation of differences between families, it is also possible to point to such a dialogue occurring within the family. This is summarised in Table 7.vi. It is possible to think of narrative partitioning as making possible a variety of careers. In the Cameron's travel talk, the contrast between material satisfaction and greater awareness of the world was demonstrated in at least two careers: the non-conformist life of Nora and the conversion of Stephen. However, the same non-conformity that was seen in the resistance of Nora to the materialist pressures of those around her were was used by Matthew to account for his own identification with the values of individual satisfaction. Less dramatically, the sense of awe expressed by Elizabeth Pemberton at the inaccessible cultural world of Europe sets the scene for Celia's career of gaining the necessary knowledge to enter that world. One can then interpret this further as a restoration of the breach made when her grandparents had detached themselves from Europe in the first place. And in the Ryan family, John's idea that Marie will re-affirm his experience of the 'specialness' of Europe is brought into doubt by her ambivalence about an overseas romance. She had to choose whether or not to take it seriously.

This variety of individual careers indicates that narrative partitioning is not a static structure which underpins the uniform construction of identity. Rather, it needs to be understood as a practice that is susceptible to a history of re-interpretation and subversion. One could take this historical analysis further and suggest other possible permutations within the families; e.g., a Ryan child who takes the romantic alternative and develops a commitment to ecological politics which will bring society closer to the natural source of creation.

The discussion thus far has examined the operation of narrative partitioning in making a difference between spaces, individuals and strangers, families, and members of the families. The final level of operation directly concerns the phenomenon of personal change: making the difference within the individual.

7.4.4 The construction of identity

The specific operation of narrative partitioning in the travel talk of individuals is indicated in the key narratives presented of overseas experience: the Pizza Hut incident, the German forest, and the Vienna red light district. Each of these stories entails stepping out of the known ordered world into a largely unchartered space. It is in this space where 'powers' are seem to emerge that guide the traveller on. 7 sets out the powers revealed in the travel talk of the three families.

Table 7.vii Powers Demonstrated in Stories of the Three Families

  STORY POWER
Camerons Pizza hut Collective Action
Pembertons German forest Personal expertise
Ryans Red light district Inner goodness

In the Pizza Hut story, Mark Cameron confronted a situation that did not conform to the ideal of rational distribution of resources. It was beyond his own power to restore this ideal. A circumstantial consultation of the Bible provided him with knowledge by which he was able to continue dealing with the situation: he knows there is a presence that will eventually bring this inequity into account. This narrative has found a place in the church community and has given Mark an active voice. It had a similar effect for Stephen as well, though he was held up as a special case of conversion to social justice: his comfortable background was seen as heightening the tension between his expectations and reality. In both cases, Mark and Stephen were subject to disturbing experiences which reinforced the importance of church doctrine. They were able to offer testimony of the need for collective action.

There was no such community for Celia Pemberton outside her family and a couple of friends. Discussion about travel for her was a source of possible envy from friends doing Medicine. Celia claimed to be undecided about whether her future would lie overseas or working as a doctor here. Certainly she considered it a failure to have lived only in Melbourne. The narrative of the German forest was used by her to link together the experiences of feeling immersed in the European culture. The challenge of being sent to potentially hostile foreign environment is dealt with by mastery of language and local custom. Celia has acquired the expertise to survive in Europe.

The knowledge gained by Marie was not specific to Europe, but could be applied to encounters with strangers at home as well. The Red Light narrative involved a situation of possible danger that was made safe by friendly contact with others. For Marie, her success with other strangers overseas was interpreted by her father and mother as a confirmation of her skill in dealing with other people. This was something Marie reflected on in framing her decision to go into cardiac Medicine. In this, Marie was repeating a similar experience that occurred in the generation before, when her mother had discovered skills in dealing with people while teaching in Indonesia. Jan spoke of travel as a 'revealing' experience, and identified social facility as the outcome of this function for Marie. The father's expectation that Marie would share his own overseas experience matches the demonstrative capacity attached to travel by the Cameron's. In both cases, travel provided confirmation of an inner goodness: in relations between people and the world in general.

There are some general points to be made about the narrative partitioning at work in the making sense of personal change. First, change can be read as a movement from the practical to the expressive. This change need not be seen as a natural developmental trend. The parents were quite open about its engineering. Nora Cameron 'sowed the seed' of overseas travel among her children to encourage their independence from the family and to grant them an active voice in the church community. Elizabeth Pemberton promoted travel for her daughters to give them a capacity to move around the world, not just Australia. And John Ryan financed his daughter's overseas trip as a necessary incentive for her rigorous medical training, something viewed by his wife as providing her daughter with a sense of who she was. The strategy of all parents appeared to be that it was important for their children to be sent out into the world in order to develop into individuals. This process can be cast in terms of pendulation, typified in Chapter Three with the conversion of Saint Augustine. The travellers find themselves in a context where they are powerless to continue. Within this loss of agency emerges a 'power' which helps to take them further: Mark Cameron discovers the religious doctrine of Christ's body in the mental distress caused by the confrontation with poverty; Celia Pemberton is able to acquire a skill with languages to find her way inside a potentially hostile environment; and Marie Ryan draws on her trust in others to escape from moral danger. In each of these cases, the most tangible personal change is the achievement of a voice in the family and sometimes also its neighbouring world. Their identities can be seen as constructed as moves within an argument about how to live.

This is where the different levels of operation of narrative partitioning can be drawn into a single picture. If one takes the conversation as the unit of life, then the experiences of travel overseas can be seen as a means by which individuals gain the opportunity to take part by allying themselves with particular sides. The general argument of this particular conversation concerns the relative worth of the practical and expressive domains. The families each presented a different side to this problem: the practical should be oriented by the expressive (Camerons); the expressive supersedes the practical (Pembertons); and the expressive provides release from the practical (Ryans). This picture seems a reasonable match with the exchange of travel talk in the three different conversational groups. The next task is to establish a theoretical framework that is capable of embracing these differences.

7.5 Notes



[1]. Pseudonyms have been adopted for all names mentioned in this chapter. Some attempt has been made to replace the original names with ones that have the same associations and frequency.

[2]. Jan's response can be contrasted with Marie's travelling friends, who were more definite that it could change one:

I:Do you think travel can change people?

All:Yes.

T:A big yes with an exclamation mark!

L:Yeah.

M:Yeah.

I:In what way?

T:I knew you were going to ask that [laugh].

M:Gives you more confidence because everyone sort of liked you.

Celia's friend Jeremy was more sceptical about the effect of travel on Marie. Because her trip was so 'organised', he felt it did not allow for the unusual experiences necessary to change someone.

Text is copyright Kevin Murray. For reproduction inquiries, email