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Searching for authenticity in gendered touristic experience : female backpackers in Australia
bookposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Wendy HillmanWendy Hillman
This book examines the ways in which female backpackers search for authenticity during their travels throughout Australia. Qualitative methods, using participant observation and open ended, in-depth interviewing techniques, were used for the generation of insights and theory from the data.The study explores salient issues related to undergoing the 'real' or 'true' experience while travelling Australia. Not since the work of Dean MacCannell (The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class 1976), has any serious work on the connection between travel and authenticity been undertaken. Current research, for the most part, is limited to quantitative investigations and, is conducted mostly in capital city settings.It is apparent that backpackers travel for longer than other tourists. They show a pre-occupation with their budget while travelling and travel more widely than other tourists. They differ from tourists because they eschew packaged tourist products but, infrequently and selectively, succumb to the packaged tour. Backpackers also create or use existing networks of support throughout their journeys. They sometimes use travel as a way of positioning themselves through a 'rites of passage' perspective. Practically all of them use the Lonely Planet as their guidebook and this has become one of the representations of backpacking. When travelling Australia they discover that it is ‘just like Europe’ and look beyond the immediate to seek out an esoteric construction of the country. They achieve this through visiting locales such as the rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef or aboriginal sites and seeking out Aboriginal culture. Employment also adds another dimension to their search for the authentic. Many of them see themselves as travellers and not tourists and do not wish to associate themselves, or their experiences, with the mass tourist industry. From a sociological perspective, it is apparent that these backpackers have actively constructed their own versions of the 'authentic' in their travels throughout Australia. This book will detail these women's journeys. For the women backpackers in this study, Australia is a safe destination, but paradoxically exotic and 'different from' Europe. However, this difference sometimes turns out to be the result of marketing and the women confront this fissure. For some women backpacking is a rite of passage while for others it is a break in life and a chance to re-establish independence after a relationship break-up. The women displayed a higher than average environmental consciousness and Australia provided a good opportunity to explore the different, the exotic and the environment.