By Ulrika Åkerlund
The doctoral thesis ‘The Best of Both Worlds – Aspirations, Drivers and Practices of Swedish Lifestyle Movers in Malta’ have recently been published and is available in full text.
It has often been claimed that contemporary societies are shaped by globalization; the rapid interconnections of societies, economies, markets, flows and information potentially linking all places in the world to each other. In search for experiences, variation, escape or comfort, individuals are travelling, circulating, and migrating between places, challenging the notions of ‘home’ and ‘away’, ‘everyday’ and ‘extraordinary’. This thesis addresses the ways lifestyle-led mobilities are produced and performed, by studying the mobility trajectories and experiences of Swedes dividing their time seasonally between Sweden and Malta. It explores how movers are faced with a structural framework that both facilitates and directs their choices concerning mobility, and how they interpret and respond to these structures. It also explores the imaginaries, meanings, and feelings for place, identity, and lifestyle that the movers negotiate through their mobility practices and through the links they create and sustain in places. Thus, this thesis is situated in an evolving field of research on lifestyle mobilities. Lifestyle mobilities are here defined as those mobility practices undertaken by individuals based on their freedom of choice, of a temporal or more permanent duration, with or without any significant ‘home base(s)’, that are primarily driven by aspirations to increase ‘quality of life’, and that are primarily related to the individuals’ lifestyle values.
The thesis is based on four individual papers exploring different aspects lifestyle mobility. The aim is to understand how production and performance aspects of lifestyle mobilities are related, and how notions of identity and belonging are negotiated in relation to lifestyle mobility practices. The production aspect relates to those structures and frameworks that create, facilitate, or sometimes delimit opportunities for lifestyle mobility while the performance aspect focuses on individual agency and meaning of lifestyle mobility practices. The studies are based on in-depth interviews with Swedish movers in Malta, and focus on how structural frameworks and mediations influence the ways that movers manoeuvre, manipulate or adapt to structures and influences in order to arrange their life context to achieve ‘quality of life’. A second aim focuses on the ways that movers reflect upon their identities and belongings as they travel routinely between two (or more) significant places, and how this may influence mobility practices. It is concluded that structures and mediations are both facilitating and delimiting movers’ space of choice regarding mobility decisions. Through their agency, movers negotiate their space of choice by allocating resources and experience, accessing supportive networks and tailoring their access to entitlements. The production and performance aspects of lifestyle mobility practices are interlinked in complex ways.