Horizons of Possibilities: The Telos of Contemporary Himalayan Travel

Christopher Howard

Abstract


Travel always takes place within a horizon of possibilities. This paper addresses the question of why certain people travel to a certain part of the world, while also addressing the more fundamental question of why people travel at all. Based on a mobile, multi-sited ethnography conducted in 2011 in Nepal and north-eastern India researching western travellers, I highlight the role the imagination plays not only in motivating corporeal travel, but in pre-structuring travel imaginaries which impinge upon actual journeys. Following this, I discuss the motives, goals, and desires of travellers in the middle Himalayan region, showing how such journeys commonly revolved around three themes, identified as: coming to the source or origin of spiritual traditions, having ‘exotic’ cultural experiences, and seeking bodily challenges amidst the highest mountains on earth. After examining these often intertwined themes and arguing for greater attention to the relationship between the imagination and corporeal travel, I conclude by offering my interpretation of what the overall telos, or ultimate aims, of contemporary Himalayan travel centres on.

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