Taking Time and Making Journeys: Narratives on Self and the Other among Backpackers

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


This work addresses the phenomenon of long-term, so-called ‘independent’ travelling, or backpacking, often to destinations described as the ‘third world’. It regards backpacker journeys as arenas for identity work, for expressing individuality and a ‘strong character’. Rather than merely being a parenthetic detour in time and space a backpacker’s trip to the tropics can be understood as a creative effort by the individual to regain the control over time and space thought to be lost in places travellers call home. Yet, at the same time, backpacking reproduces structures of power, through (re)constructing the image of a ‘primitive other’ upon which much of a successful ‘western identity’ rests. The success is, however, not only dependent upon inventing and encountering ‘primitive’ others but also upon the gender of the traveller as well as the competence in mastering manifestations of adventure and risk. The work argues, for instance, that stereotype expectations of femininity (and masculinity) make female ‘adventurism’ into a challenge beyond the actual (or faked) ordeals encountered on the road. Adventurous women are forced to negotiate and balance between expectations placed upon them as (non-adventurous) females and as adventurous travellers. The arguments rest upon the ontological and epistemological conviction that individuals are creative, making the most out of the tools for identity work which society supplies them with. However, in the process of individual self-articulation, structures are both maintained and altered. Consequently, it is through studying individuals and their products/expressions (such as media texts or choice of clothing, food or ‘proper’ transport) that information can be gathered concerning individual thoughts and actions and the structures within which these are manifested. Such an undertaking has been accomplished within this project by means of a qualitative, ethnographically influenced approach, including interviews with backpackers, observations in backpacker areas and analysis of travel media.


  • Torun Elsrud
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • Sociology, Sociologi, other, backpacking, primitivism, risk, time, tourism, gender, adventure
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Karen Davies, Supervisor
Award date2004 Feb 19
  • Department of Sociology, Lund University
Print ISBNs91-7267-164-5
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2004-02-19 Time: 13:00 Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Eade, John Title: Professor Affiliation: Roehampton University of Surrey, GB --- The dissertation is a mixture of published articles, forthcoming articles and chapters written specifically with the dissertation in mind. Elsrud, Torun (1998) ‘Time Creation in Travelling: The Taking and Making of Time among Women Backpackers’, in Time & Society 7(2): 309-334. Elsrud, Torun (2001) ‘Risk Creation in Traveling – Backpacker Adventure Narration’, in Annals of Tourism Research 28(3):597-617. Elsrud, Torun (forthcoming 2004) ’Gender Creation in Travelling or the Art of Transforming the Adventuress’ in K. Meethan, A. Anderson and S. Miles (eds) Tourism Consumption and Representation: Narratives of place and self. Wallingford: CAB International.

Total downloads

No data available