143 Letter from Bintang Handayani

Dear future female tourism researchers,

Here are some stories that may be relevant to your current situation. If not, just skip to the next letters.

Small “b” and capital “B”: Journey to Branding

A little girl in a green dress was learning the alphabet on a sunny, bright day in Greater Jakarta. She was participating in order to become more cultured, knowing the difference between a capital “B” and a small “b.” Fast forward 20 years, and Small “b” is not necessarily a small being or a small-minded person, and “B” is not necessarily a big person with a broad mindset. Small “b” became cultured while sitting with her guru and discussing authenticity and upcoming brands. The discussion broadens, and they get to talk about the development of visitor attraction on social media, visitor attraction, and nation-brand image.

She thought to herself, “Ah, the field trip,” how excited she was, even though she was nervous about it. “It’s a good thing I met random people on my holiday trip to Borobudur Temple.” One of her first encounters with foreigners was with a German tourist the same year she was born. They posed for photos together. She was now wondering where the pictures were. Tourism research is a study of life itself. She wonders if she chose the wrong major, or if she’s just a typical Virgo with many interests:) She earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communication science before going on to earn her MBA and PhD in tourism and hospitality management. She fell in love as well as fallen into academic life.

Not sure why, maybe it’s just little B a bit confused, trying to find the meaning of life, the purposes, the study of life. Getting to eye-witness bright people with sharp thinking ended up being explorers, travelers, and an unsuccessful businessman, or  free-lancers. She is on the verge of becoming one of them. On her way to dinner with her friends, she remarked, “It’s tragic.”

Dark Tourism in the eye of introvert scholar

She ended up writing about it after hearing gloomy news and receiving many condolences. Visits to death sites are much more meaningful, theories of memorable experiences become present, and she analyses it while mourning. Now that she has heard the truth from her guru and from the books of prominent professors, she is convinced. She doesn’t remember how she got in touch with Prof. Max, the mentor and collaborator who teaches her not only to be sharp in writing, but also to work hard and not give up.

She was at the stage of mourning and death sites such as Trunyan cemetery when she co-edited that book, and the role of Bali Aga cultural heritage was the medium for her contemplation. Over the last five years, she has continued to investigate the death sites while also studying other research areas such as media-related tourism, voluntourism, and the role of technology in the branding of visitor attractions. To that end, she wrote Virtual Dark Tourism.

Her simplest mind intrigued by death sites and the quasi-suicide, and Japan was a good place to visit. Hands that are invisible, she believes she was guided by an invisible mentor from another part of the world. Because music was out of the question for a few weeks, she decided to watch a movie. She tried to be brave, and she investigated the possibility of combining media-induced tourism theories with the phenomenon of quasi-suicide experiencescape, which is now known as suicide tourism. Not a popular idea, as she inadvertently stated at a conference in Vietnam that dark tourism is not a hot topic. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the inappropriate word she used or something else. That day, however, will never be forgotten. That day, as Natalie Imbruglia sang in an old song, THAT DAY, she finished writing about it. The chapter Dark Tourism as Quasi-Suicide: A Case Study of The Sea of Trees came out.

Falling in love, social media scholars, and sustainability

She was reading it, ah, it’s already dark, today was a productive day for her. Obsessed with social media-related works, she ended up reading online user reviews. Fascinated by it, taking the opportunity to elaborate on it felt like returning to communication science studies. She tried, but it wasn’t quite right. She was concerned that some social media scholars would be upset with her for failing to cite their work. An Analysis of Online User Reviews of Death Sites and The Paradox of Authenticity and Its Implications for Contemporary and “Bizarre” Tourism Campaigns were published.

It was like falling in love, it was like going to the theme parks, and it was fun writing about it. Greenday, the Jesus of suburbia, is playing her favourite band. She whispers to the morning breeze that caresses her face, gently her heart melts with the universe, ah green the leaves, she has to re-study the spectrum of sustainability. Unfortunately, the drought is still in her laptop.

Traveling back and forth to familiar places, she begins to question herself, “do I really know these places, ahh Southeast Asia, Nusantara, she smiles at strangers she met in the jungle?” Oh no, one of her friends landed in hot water when a troubled man with a different upbringing and background misinterpreted their friendliness. That had to be the research area that her friend Annmarie Nicely was interested in.

To meet her KPI, she can’t get enough of solo dinners, introverted people, and Instagram. It’s all because Instagram has a lot of pictures of animals, and she happened to come across some interesting posts where introverts are actively involved in Instagram talking about their solo dining experiences. “Ah, what a wonderful post,” she exclaimed as she walked to get her lunch.

She analyses it alongside the sounds of music, a bit of late 1990s music, and the sad news of the death of a famous lead vocalist of a band. And she’s wondering how she got involved, “Am I that introverted person who enjoys solo dining?” she wondered. Attempts to persuade the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Journal of Tourism were futile. It was worse than any rejection, the cold words of “rejected,” which she had heard many times. Her mentors were extremely proud of how she handled the situation. Perhaps partly because she keeps it to herself. Lessons learned, and just to make her laugh, she wrote it in her mother tongue. Smooth, yeah, we know that, said the person who loves her so much, commenting on the strange behaviour of an unhappy baby (read: unhappy early-career academic). As time passes, she manages to overcome it. Fortunately, she is the type of person who can be sad for a few minutes and then forget about it.

The non-rock star academics. The mentor who knows her well stated that her first impression is that she receives too much, that she is a baby, a child, or that “you are very spoiled.” She was fine with it; oddly, she took it easy. Partly due to the fact that she doesn’t say much. She isn’t irritated, and she doesn’t clarify. Yes, her introverted personality perplexes people, but what can she say? She lacks social stamina and thus says nothing. Surprisingly, close friends thought of her as a funny, fun, and okay friend. She enjoys listening to others. She has also been questioned during the first meeting of the course that she is required to teach due to her appearance. Again, she is not irritated, possibly because she is too oblivious.

She frequently struggles with her diverse research interests. She enjoys reading about topics about which she is unfamiliar. She frequently read too much about the works of rock star scholars. She (is) astounded by their work. She is well aware that they worked extremely hard to get there, and as a result, they have earned every bit of admiration from people like her. This is one of the reasons she continues to work as an academic; their work piques her interest. She discovered that every encounter, social interaction, and communication with them made her feel alive. Take note of what she said about social interaction, most likely via email or social media, with the occasional meeting at conferences. She admires their sharp thinking and writing abilities; they are very articulate, and she frequently believes they can read her mind. These could be the sparks she has when she speaks to her students. If you’re feeling this way, you’re probably going through the process of developing your teaching and research philosophy.

That awkward scholar, and with a dry sense of humour. When she is alone, she enjoys herself. She was taught to be a self-directed learner. She recalls spending most of her time as a solo learner during her PhD studies; yes, it was part of the right path for PhD students. She reads and reads, but she only produced 2-5 pages of reviewed literature per day for her PhD work. And it was only productive after she finished her early prayers at 9.00 a.m., and if she was lucky, she could write until 10:00 a.m. She realised that deep casual writing is far more simple than academic writing.

That was the day she faced her PhD defence. Her PhD work was reviewed. It was a gloomy day. Surprisingly, she is the type of person who still admires the prominent Professor who reviewed her work and has faith in her PhD supervisor. She discovered that a PhD supervisor is similar to her father. He is only concerned with what is best for her. As a result, she overcame the difficulties and challenges. She began to recognise her weakness of reading excessively about anything and everything she came across that day. Then she discovered the wonders of interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinary, and adisciplinarity. Don’t worry if you get distracted like she did; it’s all part of the journey. Accept it; the process will get you there.

She took a quick trip with one or two friends, mostly to eat out. She has a very small number of circles, but she is strangely content with it. Inspired conversation leads to another appointment for lunch or an outing the following week. She went out several times before realising that time flies and that inspiration does not always strike at the right time. She was frequently frustrated, but that was probably the point at which she realised that being human was more important. Solo dining is also a good option because it is quick and provides a good experiencescape, she admitted. However, as an academic, she recognised the importance of being a part of the group. Solo may be able to complete the tasks at hand, but she has learned the hard way how cruel and cold the academic world is. As our father used to say, fly, be an eagle when we need to complete a task, but fly together with others when we need to complete a mission. Although it may be challenging for an introverted academic, we must do it. According to some of the stories, a balanced lifestyle is essential, especially for the next generation of female tourism researchers.

You should listen to music or watch movies, any movies, whatever it is that you enjoy. If the taste of your music is so bad that it’s embarrassing, use earplugs; you’ll look much cooler. You should enjoy falling in love more often, even with the colour of banana trees in front of the second home. You can even post a selfie of you on Instagram. You don’t have to be outgoing or pretend to be an extroverted academic. Don’t compare yourself with other(s), It’s okay to be yourself; if you want to wear your favourite jumper to campus every day, that’s fine. Look, “b” used to walk around campus in her favourite flowered pink jeans and cardigans. Remember, as long as your Dean is pleased with your work performance, everything will be fine. Again, you are not required to dress in the same manner as other academics. You don’t have to drink coffee; tea is also a good option, and oh oh milk tea with boba isn’t so bad; even Big “B” enjoys it on occasion. Last but not least, you should clarify that not every issue at the office requires your response; if you want to be in a strategic position, you must engage in office politics.

That’s all the stories I’ve got for you. I don’t have a lot of experience, but I hope this narrative is helpful to you. I’ll leave you with Gin Blossoms’ Hey Jealousy from the 1990s.


Bintang Handayani

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan


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Women’s voices in tourism research Copyright © 2021 by The University of Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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