Why wanderlust? The meaning we seek in travel
October 6, 2014
The world is shaped like a plate: venture too far and you’ll
fall off the edge. Or so the Ancient
Greeks thought. But these days, we know
more about our round blue dot than ever before.
The other side of the world no longer seems unreachable, in fact, it
tends to sit right on our doorstep – in the news, on our screens, and just a
cheap flight away.
Background image source: blackriver.tumblr.com
For a recent project with Fairfax Media, The Lab conducted
research into why people travel for the launch of traveller.com.au at the
Sydney Opera House. We were excited to
get our teeth stuck into the wide world of travel, but were quickly confronted
with how complex and subjective the area is.
With the office busy philosophizing about our own experiences abroad, we
took a close look into what was being talked about by the leaders in the
category, and found that we are inundated with advice on where to travel, but
we hear little of why and how we should go, as if travel itself is reason
We dove into the research with a philosophical approach: if travel can rearrange our inner landscape, what internal rearrangements do we search for when we travel? Or, more succinctly:
What meaning do we seek through travel?
Ironically, in The Art
of Travel, Alain de Button discusses how we are actually quite ignorant of
the art of travel: when we go on holiday, we take ourselves, complete with our
habits and worries with us. Yet escaping
from the day-to-day is still an important ritual.
With this as our framework, we turned to respondents to discuss their recent travel experiences using the two biggest conventions of travel: photos and letters. We gleaned patterns of codes from these and overlaid the observations with our cultural intelligence studies (such as Grit Generation, Wabi Sabi, Recasting the Mould and Mindful in the Madness) to cluster the correlations according to dominant and emerging trends, common forces and shared impacts most relevant to Australians today.
To make each of these clusters watertight, we then peeled
them back, retested them, questioned them, pulled them apart, put them back
together and verified them through crowd
interpretation, returning to the original respondents for a second
stage of research and sourcing input from Fairfax and
our fellow Labsters. In the end, we were
able to map the final clusters onto a semiotic square
according to their meaning (see Australianness Meaning Map for an example), where the
relationships between the clusters were made clear. Although each area had a number of different
expressions, it shared common drivers and implications for specific
The four main areas were potential, mindfulness, belonging
and excess. Unfortunately, it would take
another essay to properly explain these areas and the relationships between
them, but get in touch if you’re interested to know more.
On Tuesday September 30th at the Sydney Opera
House, after an interview with AdNews, we revealed the square and discussed the
implications it had for brands, experience, communications and products, and
how the findings could be made affective in a myriad of ways. It was the
culmination of a long and exciting project and we loved being involved in the
launch of the new look Traveller. Read more about it on AdNews,
and The Newspaper Works.
The Labsters: Lucy Baldwin, Paul Labagnara and Amelia Moulis