This paper tells the story of how I discovered both ‘self’ and ‘research’ during a qualitative PhD study on women who travel solo. This story will emphasise the importance – if not the necessity - of self-discovery through research. It will argue that one cannot divorce oneself entirely from one’s research, as is suggested by traditional, quantitative approaches to academic enquiry. Such a claim, of course, brings into play contemporary debates on ontology and epistemology, and how a researcher’s worldview greatly influences the nature and conduct of her enquiry. As part of my PhD research, I conducted forty in-depth interviews with Australian women who had travelled overseas alone. The study’s aims were to investigate the meaning of solo travel for women, and to identify the constraints that they face during such travel. An interpretive, feminist framework was adopted to guide this project. While studying other women’s journeys, I found that I myself had also embarked on a solo journey of sorts – a journey of great self-discovery which saw me question my views about the world, how I related to people, and what I thought was important in the pursuit of academic knowledge. I say a ‘solo’ journey because I found myself relatively alone as a qualitative, feminist researcher in a field (tourism studies) where objectivity, generalisation and distance were often the prized goals. This was not an easy journey at all times, similar to the solo travails experienced by the women I interviewed. Self-doubt, fear of criticism and a sense of isolation were common elements in our respective journeys. Yet, interestingly, these were the very factors that nurtured our learning processes, and which encouraged us to find ways to negotiate through our constraints. In summary, this paper will explore the parallels between my (often) solo journey of self/research discovery, and the solo journeys of the women travellers I interviewed.
Wilson, E 2003, 'A (solo) journey of our own: discovering self and research through studying women who travel alone', in L Moxham, K M Douglas, T Dwyer, S Walker, J Wooller & M W Cornelius (eds), Proceedings of "Discovery" discovering research, discovering education, discovering self: Women in Research Conference, Rockhampton, Qld., 13-14 November, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Qld. ISBN: 1876674660