Capturing Liminal Spaces while Travelling

| August 29, 2011 | 5 Comments

So, what is a liminal space? Think ‘disruption’. The word ‘liminal’ comes from the Latin word limens, meaning literally, “threshold.” Hence, a liminal space is a place of transition, a place of waiting and not knowing. It’s a place that travellers are, no doubt, intimately familiar with! Liminal places can range from borders and frontiers to perhaps airports or hotels, which people pass through but do not live in.

pengangwindow Capturing Liminal Spaces while Travelling

Window in Penang. Photo by Two Go Round-The-World.

More a mental space than physical

But the idea of liminality is not limited to physical places—it can also be applied to the thresholds we experience everywhere in life. Whether its graduation, a new career, marriage, divorce, sickness—all will disorient us for awhile. But what could be more liminal than travel—and even moreso, long-term or perpetual travel?

justicedoorway Capturing Liminal Spaces while Travelling

Santiago doorway detail. Photo by Two Go Round-The-World.

One of the very definitions of liminality is the space in between—or boundaries. And if we take these in the literal, geographical sense, then almost all travel is ‘liminal’. To see another travel bloggers take on liminality, check out Lillie’s travel blog Around the World “L”!

Doorways as metaphor

This concept can be applied to other things, too, such as the idea of a doorway or a window. When you step inside a doorway, where are you? Part of you is in one room, and part of you is in the other. For that moment as you are passing through the doorway, you’re neither here or there—you’re in between.

indiandoorknocker Capturing Liminal Spaces while Travelling

Knocker in India. Photo by Two Go Round-The-World.

That’s why we’ve always been fascinated with doors and windows. In our case, they’ve always elicited the essence of travel—crossing boundaries. And quite often, they are the subject of our photos when we travel. They serve as the perfect metaphor!

Conclusion

One problem we travellers face now, however, is that places are becoming more homogenized and similar, erasing the idea of boundaries. For example, if we see the same fast food restaurants in New York City and Siem Reap, the same convenience and chain stores in Tokyo and Toronto, the ‘liminality’ of travel is reduced—or sometimes eliminated altogether.

cuscochurchdoor Capturing Liminal Spaces while Travelling

Church door in Cusco. Photo by Two Go Round-The-World.

While there are no easy answers to this dilemma, we believe that independent travellers remain dedicated to exploring possible ways to bring back a sense of adventure, discovery and newness to the experience of moving. As much of the homogenized modern world seems determined to do away with whatever is ‘in between’, it seems that travellers will always be compelled to create or discover differences for ourselves. Or celebrate them in pictures!


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Category: Dan's Blog

About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Check him out on Google+.

Comments (5)

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  1. Candice says:


    “Liminal.” Adding that one to my vocab.

    I love colourful doors…aren’t they always so inviting?

  2. Inchirieri Masini says:


    Never enjoyed liminal places or situations. They’ve always augmented a certain sense of insecurity. Physical “liminalities” are a little bit more bearable.

  3. Jonathan says:


    Looooove the shadows on the wall and the ambience of that photo of the door in Cusco. Simple, yet so authentic, and beautiful. It makes you want to be in that situation, and explore beyond the door.

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