Tracing the Trajectories of Objects of Travel in a Practice of trekking to the Mount Everest Base Camp
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Objects are an inseparable part of travel networks. Travel objects, as non-human actors of tourism networks, play a significant role in shaping the travel experience. However, despite the importance of ‘tourism things’ in travel networks, contemporary tourism studies have failed to adequately consider ‘tourism objects’ as active agents within travel networks. To address this gap, the purpose of this qualitative research is to trace the trajectories of tourism objects in a trekking trip to Mt. Everest Base Camp. Using the Actor Network Theory (ANT) as a theoretical framework, I deconstruct the operation of the mobile objects performed in a tourism practice to conceptualize their significance, use-value and symbolic value in travel and tourism networks. This research revealed that travel networks are not only shaped by the power of minds and human agency, but are the product of collaboration between people and objects. Therefore, beyond the immaterial and metaphorical aspects of objects, and through relational materiality and use-value, objects give rise to formations of mobile networks. As the findings of this study suggest, ‘being a trekker’ and the way trekkers experience a trekking trip’ is highly influenced by the performance of the objects that trekkers carry with them to the mountain. Unpacking different negotiations of ordering in a trekking journey to the Mount Everest Base Camp shows that trekking is not only about the trekkers, but also about the objects supporting, facilitating, and enabling the trekking experience. My findings support the position of tourism things in the networks of travel as complicated assemblage of various layers of materials and symbols including functionality, use-value, identity, emotion, memory, attitude, etc. Travelling objects in their mobile performances, in addition to their use-value and functionalities, were able to do things such as setting the stage for the travel experience, mediating home-away relationship, capturing memories, and acting as reminders of the travel experiences, serving as mementos for the loved ones, and accompanying the travellers in their next travel performance(s). Further research considering objects as active performers in tourism practices is needed to broaden our understanding of the agency of objects.