#imperfect. Oops.

So, this is the part where you all realize I’m not perfect. I know, I know, it’s a shocking concept. But the fact is, I am a human like everybody else. I’ll let you have a moment to let that sink in.

(Sorry, I’m delaying the part where I actually have to admit to non-perfectness. Another flaw.)

I’m having some issues with my research project. On the surface, I think it looks like I’m doing fine, getting stuff done. However, I must admit that while I don’t regret taking it on, I do wish I wasn’t presenting at a conference in a few weeks.

I know that I’ve had two months to research. I’ve done a lot with that time, actually. Read many research papers, talked to Peace Corps volunteers about their opinions, met with my faculty mentor and had some of the most satisfying conversations this year, had late night discussions over Facebook about authenticity. I have a great database framework set up, just waiting to be filled in. I’ve bought my plane ticket to Costa Rica and I am 100% that will be a productive trip where I’ll ask the questions I come up with this semester and compile a lot of amazing data. I wrote an amazing abstract and I love the title.

In summary, I haven’t been exactly slacking.

But my paper is still unwritten. The database is empty save a few links and comments. The mandated poster board is undesigned.

Now, it’s 3:20pm on Sunday. I meet with my mentor for one of the last times tomorrow, and the official panel the next Monday to show them final drafts.

And I’m still sitting at my computer, unable to begin.

So, remembering that I promised myself to write a blog post every Sunday, I turn to yet another distraction.

The issues are these:

  • To write the paper like I originally had envisioned it, I need a exhaustive understanding of tourism studies, which equals reading many, many more research papers––which are 1) hard to read, 2) take time and energy, 3) offer conflicting views on everything.
  • The direction I’m currently headed in (defining characteristic of the tourist and types of authenticity) has been discussed throughly and is now being left behind by the field. However, some of what they’re leaving behind is not, in my opinion, very good, and so I’m stuck making the same tables as ones already made, keeping a few names and concepts, and adding in the rest myself, which leads to –>
  • I’m not confident in remixing research done by other people yet. I’m afraid of plagiarizing unintentionally, of breaking rules of a game I don’t know very well. In the 3D printing world Tinkercad, users are clearly invited to take somebody’s work, “remix” and redesign at will, and print out the finished product, no harm done. However, intellectual property is a whole different ballpark. Ballgame. You feel me.
  • Even if all these problems above were solved, I still don’t have a lot of time in the day to dedicate to this. On top of 19 credits, I have a part time job and an internship and a 4.0 GPA to maintain. Then there’s Minerva to apply to and prep for, scholarships to apply for, family to maintain connections with. Plus all those adult things––shopping for groceries, filling taxes and amendments (oops), comforting friends when Tinder dates go poorly. Going on bad dates myself.

Finally, I don’t bullshit well. I don’t like to do anything unless I’m putting 101% into it, and I don’t want to present at the conference unless it is something that is worth other peoples’ time. And so, I put off the project for all the reasons listed above, and because I want an extension so I can do it all over again, right this time. I don’t really want to rush through it. But instead of starting now, ensuring I don’t have to rush as much, I find myself doing everything else first.

The scariest thing of all is to admit that I’m not doing this perfectly. I think a lot of that comes from being accepted to Minerva, who is pretty vocal about the quality of students they choose to accept and how perfect we are. I’m almost afraid that somebody from Admissions will read this and go, “we better retract her acceptance letter!” Or one day in the future political rivals will bring up my imperfect First Year Project as proof I can’t run a country. Etc, etc.


If anybody has thoughts on how to proceed in this research, on what to do when you’ve got everything and nothing to rewrite, on where I could go from here, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Performing Tourism | The Basics

*This interview is adapted from a late night conversation with David. I figured it hit most key points of my research. If you have questions, feel free to email me at phoebeaway@gmail.com!

So Phoebe, I hear you’re doing a research project?

Yep, I’m doing a research project on tourism! I’m analyzing the types of tourists there are in the real world, putting them into categories like Mass, Alternative, and Mass Alternative (which are all categories already known in the field) as well as my own category of Hybrid––the modern youth traveler (i.e. Backpackers, volunteers, untrained English teachers, ext). Then I categorize them by the types of authentic they’re looking for (Constructed, Objective, Existential…) I’ll be doing a case study on University of Arizona kids.

Can you elaborate on the authenticity part?

Absolutely, it’s what I’ve been interested in since I went to Panama. What do people look for when they travel? Why do they leave their homes in the first place? For some, it’s the reversal of their socioeconomic status. Low income, working class people (*rich enough to travel and pay for say, a resort, after saving for a period of time), get to go somewhere and be treated as kings, while high income people visit the slums, live in a hut, eat street food––for a day or two. Then, they both go back to their regular lives. For others, it’s a desire to get to know another culture, to understand the bigger picture. They’ll tell you they want the “authentic experience.” I call that Constructed Authenticity, because they’re after that community that hasn’t been changed through time or affected by globalization… that village that still lives without internet (although neighboring towns have it), without proper sanitation systems (the way they’ve lived for centuries!), without health care, etc. But although it’s not authentic at all to how people would be living there if they didn’t rely on income from the tourist industry, it’s still sold as culturally authentic, the real deal, “untouched,” “pristine,” even as your tour of 20 is ushered out and then next group is welcomed in, only the first of many more that day. For some people, that really is what they want, and it’s the type of authenticity sold by mass tourism agencies. Then there’s [Actual Authenticity] (still working on a name), which is the true and natural state of a place. If the town is well off enough, roads will be paved, internet providers will set up shop, there will be health clinics, people will eat food shipped in from other places. But that’s not as interesting so it’s mostly ignored. I’m still a little unsure about Existential Authenticity––it’s something to do with not the physical state of the location the tourist goes, but the meaning that the tourist creates for themselves. That meaning can be build out of what they’ve been told in the past and present. For example, ‘If you visit Ghana and do service work, then you’re a good person’ is one message we internalize, and so we go to Ghana and dig a latrine, paying a pretty penny for the privilege, but then…. build this image of ourselves, of the community we went to to do this work, etc, based on everything but reality… ? Tricky concept.

That’s fascinating! How do you define a tourist? Anyone who visits a place outside their home city? State, country?

Hahaha that’s the big question left to answer, especially because “tourist” carries so many connotations. Many people will do whatever possible to avoid being labeled as such, and so many organizations advertise that their travelers are *not* tourists, but rather _____, which makes defining the term very complicated. One definition of a tourist is “a person who travels outside of his normal environment for a period of more than 24 hours.”(Mathieson and Wall, 1982: 1) Right now, I’m looking for a term to define somebody who is away from their home community voluntarily for any period of time. I think I’ll go with Traveler (“a person who is traveling or who often travels”, where ‘travel’ is defined as “make a journey, typically of some length or abroad”.) A ‘tourist’ can be defined as “a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure,” so I usually use that to talk about somebody traveling in the Mass, Alternative, or Mass Alt. categories, like somebody backpacking through or participating in a short term voluntourism adventure. Traveler I mostly reserve for a currently uncategorized person, or somebody like a long term trained ESL teacher abroad or businessperson. 

[What defines tourism] seems like a very important classification for your paper (presumably there will be a paper involved). Are you mainly sticking to people using organizations, then?

Yep, there will be a paper :) And I’m presenting next month at a U of A conference for first years. It is important, which is why I’m leaving it for last when I have the most information and for now just studying all ‘travelers’ who are going from one place to another for recreation (including voluntourism). I will be studying a lot of people through organized … organizations :P right now because they’re the easiest to track and find the materials they’re reading pre and during trip. Individual travelers are certainly something I’ll look at, but I’ll have to rely on the data that I collect this summer while traveling through Costa Rica and Panama to tell me why they’ve chosen to travel, where they’re going and why, what kind of resources they used to prepare for the trip, what kind of traveler they identify as, etc.


Have questions of your own? Email me at phoebeaway@gmail.com!

The Minerva Project + XD

Hello Everybody!

Right to it, then.

Research Project Updates:

  • Plane ticket to Costa Rica––bought! I leave mid June and will return mid July. Hallelujah.
  • Research project––shaping up. It has a name now! Ready?  “Performing Tourism: Authenticity, Identity, and Mobility Among Youth Travelers.”
    • yeah I know. ’tis cool.
    • #proudmom
  • More updates on research project as soon as I finish abstract.


Phoebe updates:

  • It’s not that I’m not a fan of the University of Arizona. I just know it’s not the absolute best fit for me. I can make it work (the wonderful fellow students I have and would meet make it worth it), but… I went into it knowing it was my best option at the time, but not my only option in my life. So when I found The Minerva Project, I knew I couldn’t resist applying. 7 major world cities in your 4 years as an undergrad? Learning how to think instead of memorizing test answers? Working with the top professors of our age (the current dean left being Dean of Harvard to be Dean of Minerva, etc)? Sign up me. So I applied… and found out last week I got in! Finances are being figured out, but I’m very, very serious about this school.
    • woot woot woot woot woot woot woot woot woot —
    • they’re still accepting Rolling Admissions apps, so if you you’re somewhere between the ages of 16 and 26, i encourage you to apply after checking their website. . . . .
  • does that internet english ever get inside ur hed? like it be so kool sometimes its high key difficult to not type like this all the time
    • like leave ur sentences w/out periods
    • and 4get caps and ?s
    • reinvent lang dude
    • like srsly
    • why so hard 2 stop
    • k. gonna stop rn
    • srsly
    • omg this is annoying af
    • ….
    • lol