I love to travel. I’m constantly on the move, and barely a few weeks goes by before I take my next flight – whether for work or for leisure. I have a few favourite getaway destinations, but at the same time, I make it a point each year to travel to at least one new place each year, just to explore a new place and take in a different culture. In particular, I appreciate good scenery and love mountains.
With the proliferation of social media, my friends are actually able to keep up to date with my travelling. They know where I am, and can look at photographs that I post. Hence, most people who know me know that I love travelling. When I meet people, many a time, one of the first few questions they will ask me is, “You’re not travelling?”, or “So where are you off to next?”.
Yet, one thing about my travels that not too many people know about is my quirky food habits while on the road. Being a typical Singaporean, food is of paramount importance to me – even when I’m travelling. Whenever I travel, I make it a point to try local cuisine as I believe food is an important part of every culture, and having a local meal will help you to understand local culture more. I also believe that street food brings out the most authentic taste and so I actively look for street stalls.
However, after a few days of travel, my Asian taste palate starts to crave Asian food. It is then that I will start looking for an Asian (preferably Chinese) restaurant. After the craving has been ebbed, I can continue to have local food.
The relationship between my love for food and my love for travelling illustrates why ethnography is important as a research methodology. A simple survey would have brought out my love for travelling, and would be able to understand my motivators. But food is not a motivator for travelling, yet it is so intrinsic to my travelling experience. Even when quizzed about food while travelling, this quirk of needing to curb a Chinese food craving may not occur to me spontaneously unless I have time to take stock.
It is only when you enter into respondents’ comfort zone, and observe rather than intrude, and slowly probe deeper, that you will surface out nuances and quirks that can potentially become useful insights.