Adventure philanthropy: Going the distance for Guatemala

Jillian M. Rickly, Associate Professor of Tourism Management and Marketing, University of Nottingham

The role of adventure is reaching far beyond individual experiences and is increasingly employed in the changing socio-political climate of charity, philanthropy, international aid, and development. In particular, adventure philanthropy is a subset of humanitarian and volunteer tourism that blends volunteerism, fund-raising, altruism and hedonism with adventure (and often endurance-based) tourism. As an alternative means of raising awareness and funds, charity organizations are turning to individual adventurers to partner in such activities. Although found worldwide, such events are especially popular within more developed countries, with recipients of the aid located elsewhere. This research examines several charity endurance events originating in North America and focused on causes in Guatemala, whereby the adventure philanthropists employ various means of tourism mobilities (walking, cycling, kayaking, horse riding) to both raise awareness and donations as they make their way towards their ‘destinations’ where those in need of aid await their arrival. While not articulated as ‘development’, the overall impetus of such activities hints at this as funds are directed towards projects meant to improve the livelihoods and the potential of the recipients (often children) who reside in the Global South. Thus, this research uncovers a number of discursive themes, namely duration and route, mobility rights, and spectacle that are used to frame the travellers’ journeys while also depoliticizing the social context of the destinations. In so doing, it raises questions about the changing nature of adventure – it the horizon of adventure experiences simply widening or are adventure experiences being co-opted for political purposes by more powerful organizations.

Jillian Rickly is Associate Professor of Tourism Marketing and Management at the University of Nottingham. She is a tourism geographer with interests in authenticity/alienation, ethics, sustainability, mobilities and wellbeing. She is co-author of Tourism, Performance, and Place: A Geographic Perspective (Ashgate, 2014), and co-editor of Tourism & Leisure Mobilities: Politics, Work, and Play (Routledge, 2016), Events Mobilities: Politics, Place and Performance (Routledge, 2016), and Authenticity & Tourism: Productive Debates, Creative Discourses (Emerald, forthcoming).