129 Letter from Suzanne de la Barre

Dear future tourism researcher colleagues …

I want to do it all over again!!!!!

I know it’s true that not everything I’ve done that led to my very satisfying later-in-life career as a tourism researcher would work for everyone (I completed my PhD at 48 years of age); having said that, what follows are a few approaches that worked for me. Agree or not, they are ‘principles’ of sorts that might provide some insight into ways of developing your future career (and support you having fun along the way)…

Take a few risks that will satisfy the experiential value associated with what you do for employment. I had the good fortune of not having a lot of pressure from any external forces telling me I had to focus my employment choices on ‘career development’ trajectories (thank you especially to my parents, Pat and Ken); not having to oblige that requirement left open so much room to explore and enjoy many lives. In the end, everything I’ve done has provided me with long-lasting skills and knowledge (even or maybe especially my 16 seasons as a remote wilderness camp cook). It’s important to have fun along the way. So my advice is to try and avoid focussing exclusively and always on the financial reward or the CV bolstering entries you will gain from what you choose to invest your time and energy in.

Try not to despair too much over grades (but keep trying to enhance your achievement if ‘good’ grades are difficult for you to achieve). Grades are an institutional requirement, but they are a poor assessment of what students learn and know. I believe there is more pressure for students today then there was when I was doing my undergraduate degree in the 1980s. However, many around you – peers, instructors and employers – will know that poor/low grades are not necessarily reflective of what you can do now, nor are they a reflection of the potential you can achieve in the future. I barely scraped through my undergraduate degree! Thankfully I did not let that deter me, nor impact my love of learning. I loved learning in a university and so I persisted – and I had much greater success in my graduate work.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts are not valuable streams of study. Just don’t believe them. They are wrong. Period. Still sceptical? Read this: Job ready university degrees may not be the tertiary education solution we are hoping for – ABC News  Find more to read and engage with on this topic so that you can balance out the weight (increasingly) held against these ways of knowing … It seems to weigh heavier against them every day. The world needs people who want to engage with different ways of knowing and doing, and who can manage/navigate/embrace the ambiguities life presents. Complex problems require creative thinkers! AND, just in case you were not aware, there are some cool jobs/careers available with this kind of university education background.

Strive to understand who you are, and what you can do with your life. But don’t let your ‘conclusions’ stop you from seeing yourself differently, or doing something unexpected. Surprise yourself.

Purpose is useful. And it’s useful to let purpose evolve and be dynamic across the life cycle. It’s also possible you won’t always know what your purpose is. That’s ok too. But keep thinking on it. It’s a super exercise, whatever the results.

Explore the world – be it the world around you, or the world inside you. And it’s best to explore both! Modern day adventurers exist. You don’t have to travel far (neighborhoods will do!), and you certainly don’t need to conquer what you explore!

Make and keep your friends across the lifespan. Friendship is the most undervalued relationship we enjoy. Value your friends and what friendship can mean to your quality of life and overall well-being.

Enjoy the ride. Create the kind of life that might make you want to do it all over again.



Suzanne de la Barre

Recreation and Tourism Management, Vancouver Island University, Canada


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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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