Guest blog post by: Evan Jordan
Full disclosure, the author of Imaginative Communities, Robert Govers, was an advisor of mine during a semester of my Master’s degree studies I spent at the Catholic University of Leuven. However, I seek to be as objective as possible in my writing, and this guest blog post is no exception!
My name is Evan Jordan. I’m a tourism professor at Arizona State University in the United States. I’ve also created a travel blog and podcast, called The Trip Doctor, aimed at helping people become more intelligent travelers. I was recently reading Imaginative Communities, and had an epiphany. As a tourism professor, I teach my students about the importance of being informed and being critical of everything that they hear, read, do. This basic perspective applies to all aspects of life, but perhaps most importantly it has helped me create my travel philosophy, which informs everything I do in my blog and podcast.
My travel philosophy is simple: Be as informed as possible; about yourself and your travel style, wants, and needs; about potential impacts you can have in your travels; about your destination and its history; about the people and places within your destination; about how to book trips efficiently. Knowing as much as you can about all these things will help you be aware of how you can have a positive impact on your travel destination. I know it isn’t always possible to be a completely sustainable traveler or get a completely authentic experience – but if you educate yourself prior to travel at least you can make informed decisions about your travel and the impacts you may have. All of these things lead people to become intelligent travelers.
To understand the congruence between intelligent travelers and imaginative communities, we need to know exactly what imaginative communities are! In Dr. Govers’ own words, “imaginative communities are neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries that reinforce or build local character and civic pride, while at the same time captivating outsiders (external publics). Imaginative communities have a strong sense of purpose that allows them to come up with mesmerizing, innovative, creative, compelling initiatives that capture peoples’ imagination while at the same time showcasing provenance.”
Imaginative communities are the embodiment of intelligent travelers in community form. They are communities that have done some soul searching, identified who they really are at heart, and have embraced that identity to its fullest. In this way, both intelligent travelers and imaginative communities seek to reach self-actualization – meaning they have a full understanding of their full potential and place within the world. Why is reaching self-actualization important for travelers or communities? Simple. Those individuals and collective communities who reach their full potential are happy. Happy that they have identified the things that are important to them and have prioritized them. Happy that they are not wasting time and energy being something that they are not. Happy because they are presenting something to the world that can be enjoyed by others.
So why does this matter for travel? Why do travelers and communities alike need to embrace who they are and act accordingly? Because in a world where languages, cultures, histories, and communities are becoming globalized and homogenized, finding real, authentic experiences in travel is becoming increasingly difficult. One very important characteristic of self-actualized people is the ability to judge situations correctly and honestly. This leads them to be very sensitive to the fake and dishonest. When an informed traveler visits an imaginative community, the opportunity to create some two way ‘authenticity’ magic is very real.
In the realm of tourism, destinations are taking vastly different approaches in terms of their management, branding, and marketing. One of the great things about imaginative communities is they don’t have to create a ‘brand’ of themselves, because their unique spirit of community is a brand in and of itself. When intelligent travelers visit these places, they are able to discern the authenticity of the experiences they are receiving, and are likely to spread the word about it. In this way, a symbiosis can be reached between travelers and communities, with each gaining benefits sought from the tourism experience.
I’m of the opinion that if travelers strive to be intelligent and communities strive to be imaginative, the travel industry and the world would be a much better place.
If you want to learn more about being an intelligent traveler, check out my blog at https://gotripdoctor.com, and my podcast called ‘The Trip Doctor Podcast’ on iTunes, Spotify, Android, and any other Podcast app!