Change is a part of life…

Change is a part of life…
Flags over Edinburgh Castle
Flags over Edinburgh Castle during the Military Tattoo

It’s been nine long years since I was last in Scotland. Eleven years since I’ve lived here. Time continues and I grow older. I have always known that age is a great leveler in life, changes the playing field, and the participants. Life changes you, changes your point of view on the world and the type of perspective in which you wish to view it.

I can mark the change.  I can’t always articulate the moments, the passages of time, but I am more aware of them now.  I have some understanding.  I experience grief and uncertainty.  The whispers are different.  The voices have changed, and the language even more complex.

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Contemplation

Time affects us all and change is hard to accept, even fathom.  Scotland has changed.  I have changed.  The dynamic nature of life is in constant flux just as in tourism.  Our reasons, our motivations shift and morph with the progression of time.  Innately, the passion I once held for this place has transformed, no tempered.  It is not as mystical as it was nineteen years ago.

So, what does this mean?  What sense of this landscape do I now possess?  What sense of belonging?

The world outside my window has changed.
The world outside my window has changed.

I was an explorer twenty-five years ago to this place, this Scotland. Prior to stepping on its shores, I knew it only from literature, film and TV shows. It held a mystique.  My passion was shrouded in truths and half-truths.  I had a child-like curiosity and consumption.

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Time passes for us all

Seven years of planning, of working hard, and dreaming, my reality changed.  I returned and had the privilege of living in Scotland for seven years.  During that tenure, the world changed drastically.  It continues to change drastically for us all.  Relationships were altered.

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Pondering life on Isle of Lewis

Sometimes, I wonder what I am trying to grasp when I try to piece together the visceral and cerebral.  To understand about this change within my heart and soul.  Do I belong here?  Can I identify with this landscape, this place?  Where on the barometer of life has my sense of self migrated?  Innately, the fields of home have a stronger pull for me, than lands farther away.  I haven’t been the only one that has changed, others have too.  I am pushed to consider others now more than myself.  I am sometimes in limbo, overwhelmed with that responsibility.  Those promises inherent with our relationships have a louder call.  I have reached another milestone, another moment of truth that can’t be ignored.  More of the complex layers have been uncovered, exposed, and choices must consider a new reality.

I never did like change.  Sometimes, it has a hidden, nasty smell.  Something you want to ignore and leave alone.  Let the world go past, without acknowledgement.  Brutal honesty, we all have those moments.  Scotland was that wonderment that I could call my own.  That luxury I could escape to and find myself, find that grounding of strength that seems elusive during questionable moments.  Scotland always made me happy.  Scotland has changed.  It is different.  I’m different.  That is good.

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New boots, new journey

Good in that I can search. The journey is about moving and embracing change, understanding fear, and looking. It’s okay to look, to search out, and find. I may not find exactly what I am looking for or the answers at this moment. Life and travel, tourism is all about experiences.  It is a circle of experiences, just like life.  And change is a part of that circle, and finding yourself during each of those moments.  Another layer of who you are.

New boots, new journey.  More me.

Reflection Poem.

Reflection Poem.
Dad studying
Dad studying

So, I was working on my page today for the students, and of course, my mind is running amok with other ideas while I manipulate code and try to create what I need. WordPress doesn’t really give great help for what I wanted, so it took awhile.

Now my mind focuses on the upcoming week of new classes. But let me backtrack a bit and explain. I am in Scotland with Wisconsin in Scotland Program this fall, and we teach on a modular system. I have fourteen days to squeeze and cram sixteen weeks of information. Not an easy task by a long shot. It can, and is overwhelming.

My first class is a 100 level course, jam-packed with a host of information. I will have to focus on the most influential concepts while expecting the students to be highly reflective and rigorous with the info. So, I contemplated how to explain reflection best. I thought a poem. It’s a brainstorm in five minutes, thinking about being in a coffee shop and focusing on the process. Apologies.

I sit and think, understand
Watch and observe
Listen and hear, more than words
I dip and dabble, postulate
Wondering the connections
The pathways explored
Past, present and yet, to be
I soar on ambiguity
Coast on reality
Dribble without syntax or grammar
Various viewpoints, arguments, my own
I write gaining speed, opening doors
Organize and snip apart
Structure
Rebuild, reconstruct
New, even old
Gaining ground and more
Clarity
And questions
Always questions
Left in my wake, before me
Tangents and diversions
Yes, even frustrations
And extrapolations
Reflections
Inward, outward
Lost on the Journey.

That’s five minutes.

Bogged Down

Bogged Down
Airfest

The semester is coming to a close soon, and I can’t believe summer is almost here.  And that means everyone is chomping at the bit to escape the north of center.  I can’t escape just yet as there is so much to do.  Grading, making plans for teaching abroad, organizing courses in our LMS, and research.  My mind is cluttered and even to-do list aren’t helping.  How do you weave through the obstacles and not get bogged down?

The only saving grace is the upcoming travel.  Just the thought of it alleviates the anxiety for a precious few seconds.  And then that nasty gremlin lurking in my mind, sitting on my shoulder vociferous reminds me to stop skipping along the slip stream and come back down to earth.  The softer, sensible side counters, “Five minutes more.”  Snooze button engaged. Ignore ugly procrastination monster.

However did my grandparents, parents, and other ancestors, think on the importance of travel?  Pico Iyer discussed the necessity of travel in a Time Magazine (Iyer, P. (2002). The necessity of travel. Time, 159(21), 82.).  It isn’t a new thought.  MacCannell in his seminal work, The Tourist (2013), argues for escapism.  We need it.  We need it to recharge and refresh.  To learn about the wonders of our global community.

Frankly, the monster of need creeps up on me, and I grab it’s spiky ear, lead it to a box and stuff it inside, ignoring its grumblings.  I have for more than a few years now.  Routine has settled around my shoulders like a vice.  A never-ending loop.  I don’t mind though.  I enjoy seeing family, but I need new and shiny, even if new and shiny is a medallion hidden in my box.  Bring it out, shine it up and wear it again.  Everything old can become new again.

Scotland always lingers in my side-view mirror.  Always whispers.

Isle of Skye, Scotland
Isle of Skye, near Neist Point

And finally, I get to return to my second home after a long absence.  Home sounds good right now.

Breathe deep, savor the sweet smell of the Highlands.  The unpretentious landscape.  Will I find it as I left it?  Will it be the same genuine atmosphere as before?  God, I hope so.

 

Scenario based learning

Scenario based learning
Sense of Identity
Sense of Identity

Learning a new process, concept, or theory isn’t easy. People learn in different ways. I can remember 6th grade with vivid detail, especially math class. I have always been good with numbers. A few weeks ago I was sitting with my Mom and we were going over some of her accounting. She was astounded that I could rattle off sequences of numbers or amounts without looking at my notes. I don’t know why. I just can ‘see’ them.  But word problems at that time, stumped my young brain.  Until, I drew out what was being asked on paper into a cartoon.  I wasn’t approaching the problem correctly for my brain.  I wasn’t asking myself the question:  What is the problem asking me to do?  I was looking for the numbers to crunch.  I was fixated on the numbers.  I knew I had to calculate something, but there was more to the puzzle.  I know that now.  I had to visualize what was being asked.

I’m a visual thinker.

Research has shown that we are all visual thinkers (Buzan)

Therefore, grasping knowledge and acquiring understanding, is best ‘seeing’ the process, visualizing the process and actually immersing yourself in the process.

Hence, why I love projects.

And scenario based projects are one way of accomplishing that goal.

 

Student Project Notebook
Student Project Notebook

This semester all of my classes have a form of project, and I will be posting helpful hints here, and in our learning management system to aid them in completion.

  1. The success to any project is not to wait till the last-minute and know that you are the one that needs to complete it.
  2. You are either accomplishing this as an individual or as a group. What does that mean?
  3. Each has a dynamic element.  Know your role and research it.
  4. Thoroughly read over the requirements.  Clarity begins by asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.
  5. There is a formula for the process–the action of completion, but each journey is unique.
  6. Organize!
  7. Budget time.  Don’t wait till the last-minute. I’ve said it twice and that means something.
  8. It is quality, not quantity.
  9. Research to gain factual data.
  10. Examples are great, but this is your original work!
  11. Don’t go in with the attitude that you just have to get it done.  If you put in 50%, more than likely it will be reflected in the work delivered.
  12. This could be used for the future.  Think of it as a tool to demonstrate to potential employers your capabilities and skill level.
  13. Do not let dysfunction ruin working relationships.  I am a mediator and here to help negotiate, navigate the waters.
  14. Keep backup copies in three different places.  Back up often.
  15. Others are counting on you, don’t let them down.

 

 

Memories…

Memories…
Family around the dinner table

I am finding just how important memories are, how important capturing them and digitizing the old vital. Not just for past generations, but also, for myself.  Snippets, minute filaments locked away and remembered with one small image.

Over Christmas break, I returned again to Pennsylvania and snooped around the old homestead.  I knew where Dad kept his slide collection and wanted to try to capture some of those images with my camera.  He has a viewer that I could use until I can get him a scanner for all of them.  I even recorded my parent’s voices.  I really didn’t have to record my mother’s because my sister and I have the uncanny inheritance of sounding just like her.  Many friends and relatives can’t tell us apart at times when we answer the phone.  For that, I am truly thankful.

Visiting Fort Ticonderoga

As time passes, I need the pictures to remember faces, try to recall voices.  Try to recall the vacations, the countless first day of school, and other events through time.  I struggle with reality, wondering if I am remembering the moment as it was or as it is recorded on the photograph.  No, I don’t know if Dad has any video; he is more of a photo guy.  I know others in our family have video, but not too sure how much of our family is recorded.

Why?  Why struggle to weed through all of these documents and media?  Nostalgia sure.  But I realized one day as I was researching my family history, the ranks are thinning.  And as I have said before, time is fleeting.  One day big change will be upon me, and I am trying to find a way to cope.  Trying to find a way to preserve something important.  Perhaps the last vestiges of my life as I know it now.  I need anchors.

I want to find those memories that are locked away deep in my mind if at all possible.  Maybe they aren’t.  Maybe they are gone for good because we just can’t store them up in our gray matter.  Or they are locked away in a hall of fogged mirrors and I need to find the key to waving away the density to reveal them.  I just don’t know.  It is hard to articulate my reasoning.

Life is a vague kaleidoscope of fragments, hinting at order and chaos.

As a researcher…

As a researcher…
Physics
Physics

Numbers…yesterday I saw a post on Facebook from a few fellow researchers about research methods, and design.  It was an old debate about experimentation, utilizing either quantitative or qualitative methods.  It brought back memories of grad school in the 1990s when I was working on my Masters.  Friday afternoons were devoted to seminar, and discussion.  And I can remember the heated, feisty debates, and it always seemed one gender against another.  There was the rock solid numbers on one side, and narrative on another.  At least in my mind now, that is what I recall.

Where was I at that time?  Arguing for mix-methods, for a triangulation of methods because one supported the other, and vice versa.  I knew from my methods courses that the prominent and preferred design, aka quantitative (especially in the USA), couldn’t get at the heart of explaining phenomenon.  I questioned drawing generalizations and affixing them to a general population.  To this day, numbers in this sense, can only describe that specific sample, unless the sample is so large that it can explain behavior of a greater whole.  But how big does that sample have to be?  Again, the debate continues to this day.

For some reason something clicked in my mind back then, and the ambiguity, to a degree, clarified.  Everything fell into place, and uncertainty diminished.  (Ironic using terms associated with statistics…isn’t it…)

Statistics
Statistics

Quantitative methods exist in time and space.  Numbers confine you to a particular snapshot of behaviors.  They are myopic, and lack flexibility.  They really don’t get at the heart of understanding.  You’re locked in a box, not of your own making, or perhaps it is, and the walls have no give, or even a door, to allow you to explore beyond all those walls.  Intuitively, you know that there is something that lies beyond your self-imposed entrapment, but your stuck.  Numbers have more finite qualities than you think, even if we go to that largest number possible.  There is always more…always more.

Whoa, Einstein, you’ve placed a picture of physics equations up there hot shot…come on…explain.

You know the symbol for infinity?  ∞, the one that is usually associated with numbers.  Yeah that one. 

Well, way back in eleventh grade chemistry I stumped Mr. Lantz when he was trying to discuss the atom.  I remember sitting there listening, and then raising my hand, as probably a host of students do at this point, and asked, “What else?”

He looked at me quizzically, and I repeated the question.  “You’ve given us all the parts, but what makes up them?”

He tried to answer, and I still shot back, “And what makes up that?”

Trying not to sound like a broken record here, but you get the gist.  I was the two-year old asking the ‘but why’ question.  Frustration thickened the air, and I can still see Mr. Lantz’s red face.

Back to .  The universe innately has that complexity.  We don’t know if it exists beyond a certain point.   We assume so, and affix that darn symbol.  It’s the best explanation we’ve got so far.  We don’t know beyond a certain boundary, even at the micro levels, or the inner spaces at the neutron level, the nano level.  And to me infinity is not a number.  It is that complexity that exist beyond the confines of numbers.  It is the unanswered questions.  It breaks the walls apart and gives flexibility to what could be a concrete form.

It allows us to imagine, and envision potentiality beyond normalcy.  Beyond what we do know.  It is answers, and more importantly it is questions.  It reaches the fringes of the mind, and reverts back to its starting point to tease out currents of thought, and devise explanations.  Sometimes the simplicity of the answer is hidden in the complexity of the question.

It demonstrated the connections, and the elasticity of integration, interfacing ideas.  It is a window, exposing the landscapes beyond the walls that we might dare to explore, and see that we may have just skimmed the surface of potential.

Okay, back to my original thought.  Research has to be more.  It has to be more than just quantitative methods.  But a triangulation of methods that exposes the soft underbelly of thought.  That gets to the heart of hypotheses, but more importantly, breaks the walls, and sees farther, further than what one method allows.  That there is breadth, depth to explaining phenomenon that numbers can’t explain alone.

Nothing is concrete.  There is too much dynamic functionality to this world to compartmentalized or even marginalize.

So the debate continues…

Sense of Belonging…

Sense of Belonging…
Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar

Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

So my tourism class has finished up for the most part motivation and I am sitting here reflecting on what we talked about.  I tried to convey to the students that they have to develop their own understanding of the functions of motivations for their own career aspirations.  To apply what we learn to their own passions, and how this will aid in becoming a better overall manager.  Yet, I continue to ponder the questions in my own life as a tourism researcher, as a tourism educator.

Why do people travel?  Why do we feel a kindred spirit with certain destinations?  Why are we tugged towards something that we have never really been before, and feel at home?  Why do we have a physiological, psychological, and cognitive response to a destination?  Finding out those answers is gold for a destination marketing organization.  If we can hook the heart of people, and have them make a decision, choose one destination over another, then we have succeeded at the function of promotion.

Yet, I always thought there was more to this behavior.

What are those feelings that tug at the heart, that sense of belonging that makes you return again and again to the same space, the same landscape?

What is that longing for a place?

It isn’t easy to articulate truthfully for some of us.  We are all drawn to a destination to fulfill some hierarchy of need.  Some hedonistic want to ‘see’ for ourselves what all the hype is about.  Sometimes, I can’t understand some over the top reactions to the elements of life.  I was never one to like concerts.  The behavior of participants that this was the be all to end all, that if they weren’t part of the equation, their life would somehow be less fulfilling.  I have only been to two rowdy concerts in my life, and sat in wonderment at the behavior of people.  It was nuts.  More than half the time I couldn’t hear the music for all the screaming.  I didn’t appreciate or enjoy those experiences at all, and will never again participate in such an event.

Outlander Season 2 EW photoshoot
Outlander-Caitriona-Balfe-and-Sam-Heughan-photographer MARC HOM for EW

I wouldn’t pass a moment to utilize STARZ’s Outlander as a teaching tool.  And I can’t understand some of the fan reaction to the program.  As I have stated before, the Scottish landscape figures as a character in the books by Diana Gabaldon’s series of time-travel books, and in the television show.  The marketing people are having a field day trying to gage and understand their audience.  Both participants flit from one spectrum to the next, and it is fun to watch from the sidelines.  Sometimes even take part.  Granted I am a fan of the show, for the most part the books, but I’m more of a ‘fan’ of the landscape, the country that it is based upon.  Scotland means more to me than words on a page, or the characters created and brought to life in a TV show.

But to each his or her own.  More than likely those words, just like Scott’s are an embellished representation of the genuine nature of a land, of a people, of a society.

Sense of belonging to me is not so boisterous.  Sense of belonging isn’t some fad that comes and goes.  True appreciation and enjoyment is long-standing, loyalty and more.  You know the bad exists, but the good overrides any hyped up contextualized or marginalized representation.  The true heart of the three environments that tourism and its properties are derived from (economic, sociocultural, and natural/man-made {built}) runs through deep layers of complexity.  Marketing isn’t an easy function of promotion, understanding motivation even harder.  Sometimes people get it wrong, but we hope we get it right.  Sometimes we won’t fulfill the implied promises, and people will be let down.  Their expectations won’t be met, but sometimes…you have to leave what you have envisioned through books, movies, tv, and even word of mouth, and look for yourself what is there.  Let go of all your baggage that you bring with you, and look, immerse yourself in the landscape to find that fulfillment.  As our part of tourism credo goes,

“travel with an open mind, and gentle heart”.

There is a shift in today’s marketing environment because of the interface of technology, and the use of differing platforms.  We are more in-touch than those that came before, those that had limited technology and accessibility to the variety, the diversity that is our world.  People see more, do more, have the capability of understanding more, and broaden their horizons.  Marketing is becoming more complex and transparent.  Creditability and trust are rooted in the genuine.  More and more are deciphering fact from fiction, and acting on it.

The Mantra I teach my students, and I hope that they remember is this…

Recall you are selling the right product [to the right person] at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful, physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

So sense of belonging is as complex as any other concept I strive to impart.  And it will take a lifetime to understand.  Heck I haven’t even touched on this part of inter-relationship to authenticity.  Shudder…

{There is a case study in here somewhere…ha ha ha}