Gap Year Blogs – A Thematic Analysis

Snee (2013) was interested in how representations of cultural difference were portrayed in ‘gap year’ narratives. She sought out blogs containing the phrase ‘gap year’ using two blog search engines (Google blog search and Technorati) and also searched some websites which seems to be associated with the blogs she uncovered through this search. She selected those whose author was from the UK and whose gap year was taken overseas, was sandwiched between school and university, and included more than a couple of posts. Initially she uncovered 700 blogs but these were narrowed down to 39 because she sought a balance in terms of both gender and the type of gap year.

These blogs blogs form her data, along with interviews with nine of the bloggers. The interviews indicated that bloggers wrote up their experiences in this formant because it was the most convenient way to provide a ‘record of their travels’ suggesting that blogs are very much a modern form of diary. Her inductive analysis of the blogs yielded four themes:

  1. The bloggers dew on common representations of the exotic qualities of the places they visited in order to portray their destinations. For example: ‘we sailed to White Haven Beach which is just like on the postcards; white sands and light blue sea’.
  2. Bloggers often convey a sense of feeling out of place in these exotic locations, expressed through their awareness of physical or cultural differences. For example, one blogger realised that by standing with her arms folded in Uganda she was being rude.
  3. Through their interaction with local people and their physical environment, gap year bloggers often displayed a sensitivity to local customs and to the complexity of the locations in which they were travelling. For example, one blogger expressed his unease at other tourists clambering all over Ayres Rock (Uluru) in Australis
  4. There is often a narrative of the danger, risk and someone’s irritations associated with the local environments – there are complaints abut the quality of driving in Delhi, lack of concern for safety in Ecuador and frightening air quality of Rio de Janeiro. These involve comparisons with the U.K.

Snee notes that these four themes in gap year blogs reveal a tension: on the one hand there is a desire to learn about and understand the local, reflect on global issues and experience what places are really life… on the other hand, established discourses are reproduced of an ‘other’ that is romanticised or criticized.

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