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Voyages from the centre to the margins: an ethnography of long term ocean cruisers

Jennings, Gayle Ruth (1999) Voyages from the centre to the margins: an ethnography of long term ocean cruisers. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Long term ocean cruisers are self defined as people who have accepted, adopted or chosen a cruising lifestyle, who live aboard their own sailing vessels, have independent means, are self sufficient and have been away from their port of departure for an extended period of time. As a group, cruisers, constitute a subculture (Macbeth, 1985).

Why do people choose to adopt a cruising lifestyle? Using the principles of grounded theory analysis, this study found that cruisers were motivated by a variety of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations as well as by their social background and status in society. Cruisers were motivated by a need to escape the pressures and constraints of their home society as well as to pursue a lifestyle which offered freedom and a sense of personal control, a need to add some adventure or challenge to their lives or to fulfil a dream. They were also motivated by relationship commitments and a desire to travel and experience new cultures, people and settings. Their age, gender, family life cycle stage, education, income and former lifestyle pursuits also motivated them. In setting about and maintaining the fulfilment of their motivations, cruisers exhibited personal agency in their choice to move from a life in the centre of mainstream western societies to one in the margins.

Overall, cruisers were found to be social actors who exhibit agency and self governance in decision making as to whether or not to maintain a sense of 'connectivity' with and without various social settings. Cruisers' responses to feelings of anomie and alienation in their home societies, to their feelings of under or non-actualisation at the individual level, and to their need for belonging with a partner activated these people to make choices and decisions regarding the negotiation and direction of their own social realities. Based on the cruisers who participated in this study, such agency and self governance can be described as 'empowered connectivity'. Empowered connectivity is the action of exhibiting agency in order to achieve connectivity with the space in which an individual currently finds her or himself. It can be both a holding on to and a letting go of connections. Empowered connectivity is not a 'theory' per se, but rather a generic representation of a process that accounts for 'plurality, multiplicity and difference'(Tong 1989) in the actions of both women and men as they negotiate the spaces they choose to occupy.

Moreover, this study informed by the interpretive social sciences paradigm and, a 'feminist methodology' enabled an indepth understanding of cruising women's experiences to be counterpointed against cruising men's experiences. Subsequently, cruising women became subjects in their own right rather than 'other'. Further, the interpretive social sciences paradigm and 'feminist methodology' emphasised the need for tourism research, in particular, to use both ernic and etic perspectives in data collection and analysis.

This ethnographic study of cruisers was conducted between 1985 and 1999 on the eastern seaboard of Australia. The study involved participant observation, semi-structured indepth interviews and self-completion questionnaires relating to socio demographics, vessel inventories, budgets and touristic experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Supervisor(s): Macbeth, Jim
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