【First Round】What will travel look like five years from now? We ask philosopher Hitoshi Ogawa.

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The New Buds of Tourism, Exploring the Shape and Future of Tourism Five Years Ahead

This column aims to pinpoint new buds of tourism (the latest trends and changes in traveling) that are to come. However, the column isn’t limited to just the travel industry, but feature people an interview format from a variety of industries. Today, we invite Professor Hitoshi Ogawa from Yamaguchi University’s Faculty of Global and Science Studies who’s been researching public philosophy to come and talk with us. You may know him from NHK Educational TV’s program Lotti and Lamb and other media.

Mr. Hitoshi Ogawa
Mr. Hitoshi Ogawa

Graduate of Kyoto University School of Law, Completed PhD at Nagoya City University.
PhD in Human Cultures.
Visiting researcher at Princeton University in the USA in 2011.
Dr. Ogawa specializes in public philosophy, and has been a freelance philosopher, a philosopher for a trading company (Itochu) and local government (Nagoya City Hall).
He’s a chairman of a philosophy café and uses his specialization to help local citizens.
He’s written many books and has appeared on countless of media formats to spread his word.

Let’s Think about Travel in This Unusual Space “How has COVID-19 Change Our Idea of Travel?”

Interviewer: Professor Ogawa, do you usually travel?
Professor Ogawa: I don’t really travel that much. I’m the type of person who doesn’t really go out and will only do so when my family or friends invite me out. Even when I do travel, I’ll often be working in my hotel room (laughs). I’ve adopted work into my daily life and my non-daily life like when I travel, I’ll write and work in these wonderful hotels and stations overseas, and basically just go somewhere. When I work somewhere else, my viewpoint changes. The way I look at the world changes, and it has a good influence on me. Above all, I’m able to get away from the usual “common knowledge” and look at things with a new lens – this is useful for philosophy.
Interview: I see. Have you been doing this style of adopting work into your daily and non-daily life for the longest time?
Professor Ogawa: It has changed a little bit recently. I’m sure everyone else in this world is the same, but I’ve thought what does “non-daily” means to me again. We weren’t able to travel during COVID-19, so I’ve wanted to incorporate “daily” and “non-daily” life and I’ve become conscious of the joys of traveling too.
I believe there have been three main changes to travel since COVID-19. The first one is “travel happiness,” the act of traveling making you happy. The second one is “travel quality,” the quality of travel has gone up along with its consumption, which makes you happy because you haven’t been able to travel that much. The third one is “travel thinking,” what sort of meaning will it have if I go there, basically thinking about the meaning of travel itself, thinking about the things you learn at your destination, and reflecting on yourself and your life. These three general concepts have changed within me, so I might be able to enjoy travel that much better.


By traveling, you can automatically change your viewpoint when you think.

Interviewer: Those three points make for an interesting viewpoint. “Travel thinking” resonates with me because I also do a lot of thinking myself. When thinking at the destination itself, what do you think are “different ways of thinking”?
Professor Ogawa: When we think about how we think about things recently, we often set our point of views while we think. Normally, we’ll think about things from our own personal point of view, but to truly see something on a more profound level, we’ll need to have multiple points of view. The more viewpoints you have, the more surprising those viewpoints are, we’ll develop a more profound thought process. Changing our viewpoints is an extremely important process in thinking, so by going to different places, your viewpoints will automatically change in significant ways. This is what makes travel so important.
Interviewer: I see. This “automatic change in significant ways” for our viewpoints when we travel are different thought processes from our daily lives then. Is it important then to travel with someone to change our viewpoints even further?
Professor Ogawa: Going with someone for “travel thinking” is something very important for me. You can consider thinking as a type of conversation, it’s like you’re talking to yourself. There’s somebody else in your mind and this is a type of thought mechanism. Naturally, having a conversation with someone else is much more effective, so traveling with someone else allows you to deepen your thought process.

“In this repeat of the daily and non-daily, travel will change in the future. But there are things that won’t.”

Interviewer: Does philosophy have trends too?
Professor Ogawa: Philosophy is also a child of the times, and new philosophies are born with each new period. Philosophy is always reconsidering the “non-daily” just like travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s travel, philosophy – they all become influenced by external factors. Current trends include ideologies about the pandemic and how changes in technologies such as Chat GPT affect philosophy in major ways. There’s also a lot of talk and debate about how AI intertwines with philosophy of the mind too.
Interviewer: So, it seems like the thought processes behind philosophy also get influenced by the times too. What do you think will happen to travel and philosophy in five years’ time – when thinking about it under the “reconsideration of the non-daily or usual”?
Professor Ogawa: Those three main changes in travel I mentioned earlier will continue as a straight line if the current situation keeps up. However, they may change in significant ways from external factors.


Interviewer: When you get used to the non-daily or the unusual, you’ll find that what you thought was the “usual or daily” becomes the opposite. Do you mean to say that this cycle of switching between the daily/usual and non-daily/unusual is what makes for traveling?
Professor Ogawa: For example, when you’re traveling abroad for long periods of time, you’ll sometimes start to feel like you want to go home. This is when the daily/usual switches to become the non-daily/unusual. You want to go home because the daily/usual has become something of value, something precious to you. Once you do go home, you’ll get used to it again. I believe that cycle of switching between the two is what makes people continually travel. When you experience it for the first time, it’s still the non-daily/unusual – for the second time, it no longer has that feeling. This pattern is simply not a cycle of switching between the two, but rather a spiral-shaped growth and development. You’ll grow as a person when this cycle of daily/usual and non-daily/unusual happens. People will essentially grow the more they continue to travel. Humans want to have the actions of change but also the peace and quiet of the usual. The balance between these two depend on the person. The difference between people who travel a lot and people who don’t, is a vital individual difference.
Interviewer: I feel as one goes back and forth between the daily/usual and non-daily/unusual, you’re not limited to what “travel” means but why do people travel in the first place? What is the essence of travel?
Professor Ogawa: That’s the million-dollar question. I believe we travel because we want to meet ourselves. We really want to meet ourselves when we reach a destination. You might be able to catch it by the tail, but it always ends up running away (laughs). I believe our true selves exist but how you look at yourself will change depending on where you go. The same place can become somewhere different when the day changes – it’s not possible to go everywhere while we’re still alive. There’s an unlimited number of places we can travel, so this means that we won’t ever find ourselves. The essence of travel won’t change and thus people will continue to travel.

The Buds We Found in This Exploration

One bud we found in this exploration was the reason why we feel we grow and relook at ourselves when we travel – it was something that felt intuitive. When we travel, we can view things differently. And by placing ourselves in this cycle of non-daily/unusual and daily/usual unconsciously, we realized our own growth when we travel. While what we want from travel may change as time passes, “travel thinking” and its effects may not change all that much. From now on, how you set the “non-daily/unusual” will affect the kind of fun you may have on your travels, and it may become one method of getting closer to your true self.