Meaningful travel: women, independent travel and the search for self and meaning

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Publication details

Wilson, E & Harris, C 2006 'Meaningful travel: women, independent travel and the search for self and meaning', Tourism, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 161-172.

Peer Reviewed



It is increasingly recognised by researchers that tourism experiences incorporate more than just physical travel to a place, as they can also involve spiritual elements, psychological and physical benefits, altruism, self-development, and life-change. Building on this recognition, this paper puts forward the idea that independent travel plays an important and meaningful part in the course of people's lives. The concept of ‘meaningful travel’ is defined and explored, using women's experiences of independent leisure and business travel as a context. Conceptualising travel as meaningful and relevant to everyday life reveals the complex, fluid and dynamic nature of the tourist experience, and calls for an effort to transgress simplistic and uni-dimensional interpretations of tourism, business travel and holiday-taking. Analysis of the women's stories and words revealed that ‘meaningful travel’ centred around three key themes: a search for self and identity; self-empowerment; and connectedness with others/ ‘global citizenship’. Essentially, what the findings demonstrate is that meaningful travel is not about a mere search for authenticity and a collection of ‘cultural capital’. Rather, meaningful travel involves women searching for an increased sense of self and reconsidering their perspectives of life, society and their relationships with others. Furthermore, the results also demonstrate how women are able to transfer the meaning and benefits from their travel experiences upon their return home, within their everyday lives and contexts.

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