So how is it that travelling gets such a good rep as a ‘mind-enriching’ experience? In this entry I’d like to disseminate some characteristics of travel that may cause (positive) change. To achieve this, I’ll divide change into two parts: Individual and societal.
Individual change is the one that can be achieved the fastest. It arises when two (or more) individuals of different cultures interact with each other and exchange ideas and opinions. Of course, the extent to which this exchange is happening is largely dependent on a multitude of factors. One such factor is the nature of the exchange; it can be reasoned that sheer financial transactions (e.g. ordering food) is a less culturally meaningful exchange than a discussion with a local. This is somewhat related to notions of formal and informal encounters, terms I explained in a previous entry.
Societal change through intercultural exchanges is much slower. One crucial term that needs to be introduced here is the ‘demonstration effect’. Essentially, the demonstration effect happens when one culture ‘imitates’ or aspires to the behaviour of the other culture. For example, Jordan has recently adapted a ‘street name system’, very similar to how our infrastructure works in the West. Before the introduction of street names, people used to rely on landmarks. But with increasingly larger cities and complex alleys, street names have become necessary to navigate efficiently.
This is of course a very practical societal change, but changes in ideology and equality can also be achieved by intercultural exchanges. Women for example are receiving more and more rights, largely due to Western influences.
So those are the basic ways in which tourism (or travel; I used to terms interchangeably this time) can lead to positive change on a societal and individual level. In my next and final blog entry I will reflect on my journey as a whole.
Reference: Williams, Stephen. Tourism geography. Routledge, 2009.