Nora Byrne


Arts, Arabic, Adventures

Part Four | Independent Travel

This post is part of a series that can be seen here.

One aspect of my work that I’ve only circled so far emerged in discussion on Tuesday. There is no doubt that work that reflects on my experience moving about the world ties into the idea of independent travel. I found a few theories and contradictions I plan on following up on next week.

Theory 1: One direction to follow came from Kristen Truempy via the Positive Psychology Podcast, discussing the psychological benefits of independent travel. She discusses how travelling on your own can tie into each domain of psychological well-being, the most relevant being the idea of environmental mastery. This is not complete control of a situation or place, but rather the feeling that you are capable of asserting your values within your experience. If you consider travel a change in environment, the way I use drawing to process my travels is a form of mastery. The process apparently involves: isolation, dependence, autonomy, cooperation and independence. There is a lot of overlap between these and stages of culture shock, which I find interesting.

I did find some scholarship critical of the domains of well-being theory I would like to explore more next week.

Theory 2: As I delve into environment I hope to start considering theories of how people experience place, and how meaning-making occurs in there. I explored this briefly at UCL, but generally to the purpose of designing or evaluating exhibitions. Cities exist on a different scale, with a different set of rules that I also spent a short amount of time researching in Doha, and would like to revisit.  

Contradiction 1: Details and Universalism

Detail: Trying to fit everything on a tray table and eat without elbowing your neighbour

Detail: Trying to fit everything on a tray table and eat without elbowing your neighbour

Details that catch my eye traveling, and that I then try to capture, often demonstrate commonalities between people I know, revealing constructions in perceived cultural difference. This is one of my main takeaways from travel that I think is important to share. This contradicts my current period of scepticism regarding universalism. I work with details, specific moments, and vagaries seem out of place. Of course, drawing from this post regarding Bisociation, perhaps the tension between vagary and specificity is a benefit?

Contradiction 2: The Collective and the Individual

Unsurprisingly, another topic that arises during research on independent travel is loneliness. This podcast can wax unbearably whiney, but has some interesting moments. Primary among these was the idea of sacrificing community for work/adventure, by moving to a different place. I had a conversation in April discussing the nature of the collective and moving away; if membership in a survives physical separation, if the decision to leave a community constitutes a change in your position in it. I would add to this the idea of forming community in new places, the intricacies of joining and creating groups.