Date of Award

8-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Norman, William

Committee Member

Burnett , Wesley

Committee Member

Smith , Christa

Committee Member

Hawkins , Greg

Abstract

Backpacking as a type of overseas travel has become a global phenomenon represented by people of various nationalities forming a postmodern dynamic, nomadic global community of travelers influencing, and being influenced by, each other and the locales in which they visit. Typically associated with overseas budget travel, backpacking has become an important component of global travel and tourism. However, research on backpackers. from the United States have not been well represented in the travel and tourism literature. Recent publication has called for research to be conducted on backpackers originating from around the world including the United States. This dissertation addresses the issue. The purpose of this study was to explore the process through which worldviews were perceived to be influenced through the overseas travel experiences of backpackers from the United States. Grounded theory was used in answering the question of how are the worldviews of backpackers from the United States perceived to be influenced through their travel experiences because it is designed to understand processes of which little existing knowledge exists. The dissertation provides the process at both descriptive and conceptual levels. In-depth interviews of 22 individuals from the United States were conducted covering their travel careers, the planning of their journeys, the journey itself, and the return home. Throughout their journeys participants perceived that their worldviews were influenced by their experiences and this dissertation identified the process through which their worldviews were perceived to have been influenced. Freedom was the core emergent category that all other concepts and categories were drawn back to. Freedom from society, freedom to take risks, freedom to explore the unknown, freedom to be mobile, and the freedom to become aware of other worldviews were all at the core of the backpacking experience. Influencing of worldviews was perceived to be the result of freedom to travel in an unstructured manner requiring risk, openness, mobility, discomfort, dependency, time, patience, and vulnerability. The backpacking experiences of the participants occurred through freedom from societal constraints empowering them to take risks leading to opportunities for interactions leading to awareness of others worldviews. Through awareness of others worldviews the participants became conscious of their own worldviews through exposure to differences and similarities. Interactions with local residents and fellow backpackers challenged their existing worldviews creating a level of awareness they deemed would not have existed without those experiences. The results are limited to the participants and cannot be generalized to the general backpacker population or the backpackers from the United States. The contribution of this dissertation is three-fold: a.) it contributes to understanding the process of influencing worldviews through backpacking, b.) it creates transparency of the backpacking experience by backpackers from the United States, c.) the dissertation provides a base from which future backpacker studies focusing on backpackers from the United States can be instigated. The dissertation indicated that backpackers from the United States originate from a unique socio-cultural environment that is perceived to influence their journeys as well as their worldviews.

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