Month: January 2007

Cruisin’ For Answers: Do temporary spaces create intimate dialogue?

Last week I was on a cruise in the heat of the Caribbean sea, munching on my buffet lunch, accompanied by one of the hosts of the ship. I cornered him down to talk about his life on the cruise. Essentially, I wanted to dive into the depths of other types of tourism, to see if the instant intimacy present within Intimate Tourism aspect actually exists in some small way elsewhere, outside of the hospitality tourism bracket.

Why I was on a cruise ship in the first place is a topic fit for another story. Let’s get back to Joe, sitting across from me as I was digging into the essence of his relationships with cruise staff and guests. I decided to approach him because I noticed that his job, much like that of other cruise ship hosts, is that of a PR gigolo – his job is to flirt with guets, to keep the teenyboppers giggling, and to provide an extra hot-flash to those 50-something women sitting by their martinis. His behind-the-scenes crew friendships were kept fairly hidden – and it is these relationship which I wanted to know more about. Because it is the temporary nature of life on the ship which was similar to that of a passing vagabond traveling through a certain space. The actual space of the ship was a temporary, fluid space – and so my question was, “does temporary space actually force individuals to become more verbally intimate with each other?” Do cruise ship crew actually have “deep and meaningful” discussions which involve discourse on “personal growth”?

According to Joe, not really. And his answer is linked to my previous hypothesis: individuals have to have certain motivations to engage in “travel-as-personal-growth” (which is one key ingredient of Intimate Tourism). And one can argue that those who care about personal growth are products of a certain age, of a western middle-class society which values a self-constructed exploration of identity (I promise to come back to this topic soon). Joe himself was a very action-theory type personality – he was on the ship to gain some level of success, and all his actions at work and in his personal life were done in order to get something out of it, to do what was best for him and his career.

Joe explained that 80 per cent of the crew are on board to make ends meet, mostly because they have no better option of making money in their respective countries (many were from the Philippines or Romania). Should we accept Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs in this case and say that the motivations of personal growth are at the top of that pyramid? Clearly, we need time to sit down for a few hours with another person, and if we are working non stop then how can we ever think of taking that time to explore our own “personal growth”?

Throughout my research I’ve realized that what I’m studying only addresses a very minute fraction of a given population. But in realizing this, I’ve also been yearning to understand what makes this population, those post-modern vagabonds who travel to seek human connection and “personal growth,” tick. Is this movement of creating these types of human-to-human connections something new, and is it something that’s expanding on a linear way? Is friendship changing or is it restricted to this 150,000 web community?

This is a question I am still exploring. And did Joe engage in intimate close friendships throughout his 5 months on the ship? This is something he’s searching for too.