Exploring travel and spirituality: The role of travel in facilitating life purpose and meaning within the lives of individuals
Willson, G. B. (2010). Exploring travel and spirituality: The role of travel in facilitating life purpose and meaning within the lives of individuals (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4030
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4030
This thesis is a phenomenological study of individuals who engaged in tours provided by Hands Up Holidays, a tour operator marketing their travel as ‘spiritual’. Hands Up Holidays views spirituality as being a broader concept than religion and attracts both religious and non-religious individuals who are seeking personally meaningful experiences. With the exception of the religious tourism literature, there is a paucity of research exploring ‘spirituality’ within a tourism framework and, specifically, what role travel plays in the search for meaning and life purpose within the lives of individuals. Spirituality is presented by scholars as conceptually representing every individual’s personal search for meaning in life; in this way, although closely related, it is conceptually different from religion; while every person is argued to be spiritual, only some are religious. The thesis aims to explore spirituality and travel; specifically, the role of travel in facilitating life purpose and meaning in the lives of individuals. To inform this study, the thesis takes a journey through a range of conceptualisations and thinking about spirituality amongst scholars. This journey reveals that each description of spirituality comprises three core constructs, these being that spirituality involves a search for meaning and life purpose, transcendence and connectedness in life. This thesis thus bases its conceptual platform on these three core constructs of spirituality. Through the analysis of 11 in-depth individual research portraits, research participants give their voice within this thesis; in addition to recounting their travel experience with Hands Up Holidays, individuals write themselves into the research in a manner that held significant personal meaning to oneself, such as through sharing one’s reflective stories, photographs and/or diaries. Key research findings were drawn from thematic analysis of each of the 11 in-depth research portraits and from my personal reflections recorded throughout the research process. Four themes arose from thematic analysis. They are titled, ‘spirituality as the essence of being human,’ ‘spirituality experienced subjectively and objectively,’ ‘life-defining moments,’ and ‘search for meaning fuelled by modern frustrations’. Analysis of these themes yielded five main findings. Firstly, each person could be conceptually considered ‘spiritual’; this has ramifications for how ‘spiritual tourism’ is conceptualised. Secondly, individuals do not separate their spirituality from their travel experiences (that is, their travel experiences are filtered through how they derive meaning and purpose in their life); this highlights the need for the travel experience to be explored within the wider context of an individual’s life. Thirdly, an individual’s spirituality is expressed subjectively and objectively. Fourthly, each individual experienced ‘life-defining’ moments, which influenced how one derives life meaning and the personal meaning one imbues onto one’s travel experiences. Fifthly, certain individuals experienced significant frustration with contemporary, primarily Western World issues, that influenced one’s travel motivations and experiences. Future research from different contexts will advance the understanding of the individual traveller that is provided through this thesis. This thesis concludes by purporting that spirituality is a worthwhile lens through which to explore the personal meaning religious and non-religious individuals derive from their travel experiences.
University of Waikato
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