|Title||Risk, excitement and emotional conflict in women's travel narratives|
This paper focuses on my PhD research into the emotional, sensual and embodied journeys of female backpackers. Existing academic literature has largely characterised this form of tourism as a hedonistic quest for intense, heightened states of experience where embodied sensations are highly sought after. However this type of ‘experience tourism’ can often result in tensions between how the backpacker constructs and negotiates her responsibility for personal safety with her desire for exciting , and occasionally risky, experiences. Drawing on narratives from female backpackers during my field work in India, as well as interviews with women who have returned home after an extensive backpacking trip to a variety of destinations in Asia, Latin America and Africa, this paper will focus on stories of ‘bad’ or frightening experiences, embodied constraints and examples of sexual behaviour that the participants perceived as carrying a high degree of both risk and excitement. Many of the travel narratives of the women fluctuate between promoting a strong, resilient character who embraces risk taking behaviour as part of an enriched travel experience, and feelings of anger, fear, vulnerability and loss of control. This can be seen most clearly in the conflicted subject position of many of the participants as their narratives display the tensions between how they should respond, and how they actually feel, towards local strangers as lone women travellers.
Furthermore, the paradoxical nature of these narratives can be linked to the shift in feminist identities, and reflect wider theoretical debates on cross-generational feminisms. Disassociating with feminism as a movement which is directly relevant to their lives, the participants in my study preferred to present a more individualised identity where they choose the activity of travel to strengthen and enhance their personal development. I argue that the ways in which the women negotiate risk in their travels with regard to personal safety, sexual behaviour and construction of ‘the other’ notably mirrors this trend. Furthermore, the paper concludes by suggesting that it is the very conflicts and controversies between feminist identities and the search for risky, intense and sensual experiences that either inhibit or enhance the excitement of the backpacking journey.
|Keywords||Backpacking tourism; gender; feminism; sexuality; risk|
|Journal||Recreation and Society in Africa, Asia and Latin America (RASAALA)|
|Journal citation||1 (2), pp. 65-89|
|Publisher||SPREAD Corporation (Sustainable Programs for Reducing Educational and Avocational Disadvantages)|