Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
were themes that related to a host population.
Three participants perceived that they were peo-
ple who liked to get closer to a host society and
believed they have had signifi cant interaction
with local residents. One participant noted that he
had more opportunities to meet local people
because he tends to travel cheaply. The idea of
being closer to a host society is supported by
backpackers' belief that they are not tourists.
Another three participants perceived that they are
different from normal tourists because they are
seeking the meaning of life. These participants
also proposed that a backpacker is a traveller, as
one participant noted, 'You could say traveller. I
travel the world, and I also travel my inner
thoughts' [BP27]. Participants believed that, as
backpackers, they have a more benign impact on
a host destination than tourists do because 'nor-
mal tourists come [to the destination] with their
rules' [BP23]. In other words, they criticized nor-
mal tourists who retain their modern identity and
perceive a host destination from a static point of
view. It is clear that a number of participants per-
ceived being a backpacker in relation to how they
interact with and contribute to the host society.
These results clearly show that backpackers
do have a desire to immerse themselves in the
host society. However, it is noted that the host
society and culture is only one of a number of
travel motivations for backpackers. Findings
indicate that motivations such as relaxation are
also important to backpackers.
environment was commercial places, specifi cally
restaurants (40%), guesthouses (37%), bars (30%),
retail shops (17%) and Internet caf├ęs (7%). Mas-
sage parlours, neighbouring areas, local markets
and public areas were each mentioned by
one backpacker (3%). Consequently, the type of
interaction could be described as relations
between tourism-related service providers and
tourists. It could be said that most of the back-
packers in this study had limited interactions and
with only a select group of local residents. Most
of the interactions were quite superfi cial includ-
ing, greeting, asking for directions, and having a
short conversation. Arguably, such a limited
interaction does not provide a real view of a local
resident's life, as it is typically from a commer-
cial, tourist-based perspective. In addition, back-
packers experienced language barriers and were
most likely to communicate in English. This is
consistent with Cohen's (1973) and Murphy's
(2001) argument that backpackers engage with
local people in the tourism sector rather than
with the 'typical' local person.
Activities undertaken at the host destination
Whilst claiming to seek authenticity, backpack-
ers' day-to-day activities show that the most
common types of activities were relaxing (53%),
seeking a good restaurant to eat at each day
(43%), reading books (43%), going to hot
springs (33%) and riding a motorbike around
(33%). However, there were only a few activities
mentioned that directly help a backpacker learn
about the host society, including, hanging out
with local people (3%), learning the Thai lan-
guage (7%), and learning Thai cooking (3%).
Clearly, relaxation dominated as the number
one backpacker activity in Pai. Many activities
could be classifi ed as 'relaxation', such as 'to do
nothing' and 'to relax'. One participant stated
that 'We try to . . . but some days you just
relax . . . but you know, it's nice to get out about,
especially when it's sunny . . .' [BP20].
Backpackers' Actions
The second topic explored in the in-depth inter-
views was backpackers' level of interaction with
the host society. These are discussed under the
headings of: interaction with host population,
activities undertaken at the host destination,
degree of socio-cultural learning, degree of par-
ticipation in local events and degree of immer-
sion overall.
Interaction with host population
Degree of socio-cultural learning
All backpackers experienced some kind of inter-
action with the local population (daily or fre-
quent interaction). The most common interaction
In terms of social and cultural learning in Pai,
backpackers stated they have learnt certain
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