Many tourists are likely to adopt a vacation mentality and engage in behaviours that are vastly different from their behaviour in their home environment (Romero-Daza & Freidus, 2008). This change in behaviour aroused the attention of anthropologists and gained a scientific definition of liminality (from the Latin līmen, a threshold; Oxford English Dictionary, 1989). The concept of liminality was first introduced by Charles-Arnold Kurr van Gennep (1909) to describe the time in which people are on the threshold of entering a new phase in their life. Van Gennep (1909) claimed that this ritual consists of three phases: a pre-liminal phrase (separation), a liminal phase (transition), and a post-liminal phase (re-integration). The typical examples of liminal state include teen age - transition from childhood to adulthood. Victor Turner (1974) has noticed that at the stage of liminality, individuals do not belong to the society of which they previously were a part and they are not yet re-incorporated into new society and described them as betwixt and between, ambiguous and indeterminate. The transition is meant to enable people to experience liminal state, lose and then recreate their identity.
Every day life does not seem to satisfy self-actualisation needs of individuals creating a gap between the real-self and the ideal-self. In quest of authenticity tourists could fill the gap and achieve self-actualisation through differentiated kinds of vacations which emphasise unique personal experiences. For Lewis & Bridger (2001) travelling is a quest for authenticity which lies at the soul of the tourists and they need to make themselves as they want to be. While travelling, a tourist has to find himself and then live in accordance with this self. Decisions that are made on holiday are put into action once home, and in consequence, shape people's future. In this sense, vacations become changecations (Kuoni, 2010). According to Bauer & McKercher (2003), the act of travelling could be applied to the three symbolic stages of liminal process whereby tourists leaves familiar environment (separation), travels to a tourist destination (liminality) and returns to the familiar place (re-integration).
Volunteers are motivated by genuine altruism and the idea that they can change the lives of other powerless communities. They are known to move across social and cultural borders, into communities and neighbourhoods that they may normally avoid. Therefore volunteering activity purely illustrates the pioneering concept of unstructured communities i.e. communitas, first introduced by Turner in 1974, where all members are equal with social structure based on common humanity and equality rather than recognized hierarchy.
The idea of personal transformation is a key issue supported by Watts (2002). He argues that a volunteers' own personal development is crucial to a successful volunteering contribution. McIntosh & Prentice (1999) believe that tourists can experience the creation and reaffirmation of identity by using insights gathered about a different culture to understand their own place in time and space. Fulfilment of emotional needs and psychological change gained from volunteering strongly relates to the concept of liminality. It can initiate changes that have an influence on volunteers' personalities, future careers and private lives.
According to DeGrazia (2005), every self-creation project that is autonomous and honest in the same way is authentic. Therefore, undergoing plastic surgeries is considered a liminal experience, aimed at the creation of one's true-self. Travelling to undertake a cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly popular, consequently intensifying the connection of medicine and tourism. Medical tourism is simply the outsourcing of medical services, primarily expensive surgeries to low cost countries. The surgery, resulting in physical change, symbolically strengthens gender identification, self esteem and the link between ones psychological and physical features. Woodman (2008) believes that the actual act of travelling to undertake medical treatment could be a life-changing experience, citing a medical traveller: "I brought back far more from this trip than a new set of teeth..."
Wagner (1977) notices that while on holiday, norms of sexual conduct are abandoned and a spontaneous camaraderie develops among the participants. Tourism plays an indirect role in facilitating liminal environment away from the constraints of home, providing increased opportunities for sex and possible sexual partners. Female sex tourists in Costa Rica challenge and redefine the traditional gender roles imposed by their cultures with the attempt to assert a new identity and expand their gender power in realms previously reserved for men only. As a consequence, the region has a growing number of gringueros - local men who actively seek involvement with foreign women (Cabezas, 2004). Women holidaymakers, who seek holiday romance, often fall outside Western body shapes ideals. They may be regarded as more sexy when they travel to other countries and receive more attention. Consequently, while on holiday those women change their perception about themselves, feel more attractive and become more receptive to sexual opportunities.
A critical discussion has shown the persuasive connection of liminality and tourism studies. Holiday choices, put in the context of the busy lives people now seem to lead, has shown the desire of change and reappraisal. Holidays had been shown to provide a catalyst for change. High extent of liminality in contemporary holiday alternatives is evident.
Bauer, T.G. & McKercher, B. (2003) Sex and tourism: journeys of romance, love and lust. Binghamton: The Haworth Hospitality Press. pp: 10-13.
Turner, V. (1974) Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Pres.
van Gennep, A. (1909) The Rites of Passage. London: Routledge.