Dear Future Generations of Women Tourism Researchers
The letter I write to you is a mirror image of the one I would write to my younger self, if I could travel back in time. I have learned over the years that our mentors are numerous, if we are present enough to see them, and their words of wisdom are plentiful, if our ears are receptive enough to hear them. As you enjoy this lovely compilation of letters of advice that partially comprises the project generously spearheaded by Sara and Antonia, my humble suggestion is that you take that which resonates with you in this time space reality and return to the rest when you are ready to be receptive to it.
My advice to you comes in the form of a little brown beautifully handcrafted leather pouch, the kind you would find in a non-descript souvenir store located on a far-flung corner of a quaint Western themed town. In it are three brightly colored stones whose resplendent beauty requires no description.
The first stone, earthy-red in color like the rock formations in Sedona, Arizona, is handed to you to remind you to take time to locate your internal true north for it will always ground you. An African proverb says that a tree with deep roots is not easily toppled by random gusts of wind but one with shallow roots will constantly fall and attempt to root itself elsewhere, each time losing time and momentum. Locating your internal true north will ensure that you are not susceptible to the pleas of others who may want you to become the image they have of you. For instance, this can take the form of a senior colleague who wants you to change your research trajectory based on what is fashionable/acceptable in the academy, or college leadership that ask you to change your identity as a scholar to align with the college’s innovative new theme, or even a funding agency that requests that you align with their discordant values in exchange for access to funding. Some may say ‘fake it until you make it’ but my humble advice is that you constantly engage in the practice of locating your internal true north, your authentic self, so as to ensure that you do not lose sight of the version of you that you are proud of, the version of you that inspires you to greatness. The academy is a context wherein we are often explicitly or implicitly forced to unnecessarily and constantly measure ourselves against others and needlessly propelled to compete with others. If one does not take time to constantly locate one’s true north, these processes, given their extrinsic nature, can result in a sense of flailing about, sentiments of loss and/or an existential crisis. Thus, my advice is that you pursue whatever contemplative practices that allow you to internally ground yourself so as to clearly connect to and formulate a path that aligns with your soul journey or your intrinsic motivations. This alignment will lift you up when you fall, it will place you on the right path when you wonder in the wrong direction, and it will be what fuels you when you are in dire need of momentum. Complementary to this is cultivating a dedicated practice of self-care so as to replenish your beautiful intellectual self and ensure that you bring the best of you everywhere you go. Treasure your red stone and pass on the message once you have internalized it.
The second stone, turquoise-blue in color like the waters of Lake Louise, Alberta, is handed to you to remind you to use your true north as the locus from which to engage in tourism scholarship that will help you and help all of us make our communities more livable, more just, more equitable, and more empathic. Dare to engage in research that goes against the grain of mainstream scholarship, particularly if you feel that you have an internal passion and intrinsic motivation to bring it to fruition, for it will be nurturing to your soul and enriching to your mind. The related research outputs are bound to be novel and thought provoking which is what science is meant to do. Make no mistake, this path will not be easy but it will certainly be rewarding, in due time. Let your mind connect to your heart even if positivists may frown upon this centering of subjectivity because by so doing, you will manage to connect your research to issues that you are passionate about and that passion will light a fire of creativity in you that will fuel your career for years to come. You will find that when you are in a rut it is because you are working on papers/projects that are not soul enriching and yes at times those (soul draining projects) are necessary evils but ensure that you also establish a parallel line of research connected to the core of who you are. Treasure your turquoise-blue stone and pass on the message once you have internalized it.
The third and last stone, shimmering-yellow in color like the Colorado aspens in the afternoon Autumn sun, is handed to you to remind you to enjoy every single day to the fullest. We tend to erroneously simply identify as academics but there is so much more to us, so much more that needs to be given an opportunity to be cultivated. Do not let the academy consume your entire being. Go out and find hobbies, foster friendships outside the academy, read books that have nothing to do with your research, enjoy a trail walk and take in every bit of random detail embedded in your surroundings. Work to live, not live to work. Research by grief scholars indicates that when people come to the end of their days, starring death in the eye, they do not wish they published one more paper, submitted one more grant, mentored one more student. Rather, they wish they had spent more time doing things like spending unstructured leisure time with family and friends, enjoying more walks, sunsets, and/or well-cooked meals. So be sure to cultivate hobbies that bring you joy and foster friendships that make you laugh all while pursuing a fulfilling career. You are so much more than just an academic, live life! Treasure your shimmering-yellow stone and pass on the message once you have internalized it.
Alas friend, I hand you the little brown beautifully handcrafted leather pouch in which to store your wisdom stones. When next we meet, my hands will be humbly outstretched, my palms upwards and crisscrossed, and I will ready to receive whichever wisdom stone you may wish to share with me. From my heart to yours, I wish you a soul fulfilling life and a rewarding and grounding career.
Christine N. Buzinde
Arizona State University, United States