|dc.description.abstract||In this thesis, I take a reflexive approach in exploring concepts of ‘home’ for returned long term travellers, whereby ‘concepts’ represent ideas or constructs rather than definitive truths. ‘Home’, being ideologically constructed (Somerville, 1992; Gurney, 1997), has traditionally represented feelings of comfort, familiarity and belongingness. Yet, within the context of return from long term travel, concepts of home may become elusive and uncertain, as previously familiar environments may seem strange (Storti, 1997; Ahmed, 1999) and as the (physically) returned traveller may remain emotionally and socially ‘elsewhere’. Thus, I foreground the emotional and experiential dimensions of return from long term travel in this thesis, surpassing spatially limited notions of an ontological home, and engaging instead with the entangled complexity of social, interpersonal and personal concepts of (knowing) ‘home’.
The context of the thesis is set within the first nine months of return to New Zealand from a long term travel experience, being the phase of travel when concepts of home are perhaps most questioned and arguably blurred. The methods I chose were underpinned by philosophical hermeneutics, and thus, I sought to privilege the participants’ own interpretation of their ‘home(s)’. Within this approach, I necessarily offered one reflexive interpretation of the returned travellers’ stories, while acknowledging that alternative interpretations may also be possible. In contrast to many theses within tourism studies that relegate reflexivity to the methodology chapter (Perriton, 2001; Feighery, 2006), I have attempted to incorporate my reflexivity throughout the thesis. For example, I commence this thesis by openly and honestly situating myself within the thesis, by examining my interest in the topic and my reasons for taking a reflexive approach.
In terms of methods, I conducted open, conversational interviews with five long term travellers who had returned to New Zealand after living and working abroad, in a variety of countries, for between nine months and five years. In these initial interviews, I encouraged participants to reflect on their experiences of return and start conceptualising their ‘home(s)’. This interview was followed by a period of video diarising, whereby the returned traveller chose scenes of ‘home’ to film with little input from me. In addition, to broaden my understanding of the participants and their ‘home(s)’, I conducted independent interviews with up to five of each of the returned traveller’s ‘significant others’; namely, friends and family members selected by the travellers as being ‘significant’ to the returned travellers and/or their experience of return. Finally, I conducted a follow-up interview with each returned traveller, whereby we explored and discussed together his or her notions of home. Such innovative and iterative forms of data collection are rare within tourism studies, despite an emerging criticality evident within some areas of tourism scholarship (Ateljevic, Pritchard, & Morgan, 2007).
Thematic analysis revealed a renegotiation with home that emerged through the participants’ dialogue with themselves, with others and with me. Concepts of ‘home’ reflected a “mixed bag of emotions”, and emerged through often passive resistance to perceived social norms, and within the context of the returned travellers’ personal historicity, that is, their worldviews, priorities and personal and social histories. ‘Home(s)’ for returned travellers were described as “dynamic”, “fluid” and “emotional”, subjectively constructed, and influenced by the returned travellers’ priorities at that stage in their wider life courses.
This thesis contributes to philosophical ‘framings’ of tourism studies (Tribe, 2009) by moving beyond spatial assumptions of ‘home’ as a contrast to ‘away’ and engaging instead with subjectively constructed, pluralistic epistemologies of (knowing) home. Indeed, ‘home’ is an important experiential construct within tourism discourse, as tourism and recreation take their very meaning from “traditional anchors of identity, namely work and home” [italics in the original] (Williams & McIntyre, 2001, p. 392) and home and away (White & White, 2007). Yet, complex, subjective, situated, contextual and value-laden constructions of ‘home’ remain uncritically examined within mainstream tourism scholarship. This thesis attempts to address this gap.||