Vacations and IdentityKaren Stein
Vacations are a delimited period during which social rules and responsibilities are eased, removed, or shifted, and people have increased autonomy over what they choose to do. Recent trends in the travel industry emphasize the appeal of vacations for voluntary identity changes—when bankers can become bikers for a week or when “Momcations” allow mothers to leave their families behind. But how do our vacations allow us to shape our identity?
Getting Away from It All is a study of individuality and flexibility and the intersection of self-definition and social constraint. Karen Stein interviews vacationers about their travels and down time, focusing on “identity transitions.” She shows how objects, settings, temporal environments and social interactions limit or facilitate identity shifts, and how we arrange our vacations to achieve the shifts we desire. Stein also looks at the behavior, values, attitudes, and worldview of individuals to illuminate how people engage in either identity work or identity play.
Vacations say a lot about individuals. They signal class and economic standing and reveal aspirations and goals. Getting Away from It All insists that vacations are about more than just taking time off to relax and rejuvenate—they are about having some time to work on the person one wants to be.
“Getting Away from It All is a highly original examination of identity fluidity and identity management strategies across different kinds of vacations. Stein effectively looks at how people negotiate the demands of multiple identities through vacations and identify shifts while on vacation. Her detailed analysis of relaxation vacations, enrichment vacations, and staycations is excellent, and her theoretical and analytic contributions to understanding identity really stand out.”
—Wayne Brekhus, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri, and author of Culture and Cognition: Patterns in the Social Construction of Reality
“Karen Stein’s Getting Away from It All is a remarkable book, solidly researched and founded on some intriguing theories. She explains that vacations are a special, ‘liminal’ time during which people often ‘play with’ identities, joining others to try out ‘being’ a motorcycle biker, a rodeo cowboy, etc. She finds that through such experiences, transformations often occur: autonomy gained, aspirations realized, skills acquired, and horizons broadened. Her book is an invaluable contribution to fields of Travel and Tourism, Consumer Culture Theory, identity research, and to the burgeoning experience and transformation economies."
—Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, Professor at the University of Iowa, and author of The Age of Experiences: Harnessing Happiness to Build a New Economy
"In this carefully argued, engaging book, Stein provides striking theoretical insights that help us to understand how vacations are meant to work, why they sometimes don’t, and what all this means for understanding identity in late modernity.... Overall, this book is a creative tool for sociologists of culture, identity, and travel.... One piece of advice, though: read it before your next vacation."
—American Journal of Sociology