Date of Award

5-2002

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Howard R. Pollio

Committee Members

Thomas L. Bell, Mark Hector, John Lounsbury

Abstract

To describe and gain an understanding of the experience and meaning of travel, ten participants were asked to “tell me about some times you’ve traveled that stand out to you.” These interviews were non-structured, and the ensuing dialogue served as data for a research project concerning first-person accounts of the lived experience of travel. Once completed, each interview was typed and underwent hermeneutic analysis within the context of an interpretive research group. Results of thematic analysis revealed that travel was described as a movement away from “home,” a venturing out, which was characterized by participants in figure-ground terms. For this set of individuals, travel was a process of movement from the ground of one’s home world and of encountering objects and events not of one’s world.

Five themes emerged as figural for participants during these forays: (1) Changes in perspective (strange-familiar), (2) Challenge (dangerous-safe), (3) Freedom (open-closed), (4) Connection (intimate-separate), and (5) Authenticity (real-touristy). Each theme was defined as a bipolar continuum along which participants described their experiences of travel. Each theme was contextualized against the ground of the home world, which was characterized as known, ordinary, predictable, and familiar.

This figure-ground description was related to the diverse literature on travel, including insights deriving from geographical, social, literary, philosophical, and empirical-psychological investigations. Despite methodological differences from earlier work, the five themes that emerged were consistent with results from other studies and analyses. For example, travel as a search for authenticity or as a journey of some sort was clearly present in thematic descriptions. Despite similarities, however, results from this study were not directly able to support or refute much of the empirical literature associated with the topic of travel since the present inquiry did not address factors such as personality or motivation, only participant experiences. The importance of one’s home world, experienced as a socio-geographical ground against which one ventures out, did emerge as necessary for a full understanding of the meaning of travel.

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