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Education and the Development of Interest in Tourism and Recreation

Published: 19/05/2023
Kazimierz Kopczyński
In my scientific and popularization activities , as well as teaching, I preach the idea of a holistic approach to Man, Earth and the Universe. I am an enthusiast of ecophilosophy, which points to the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of Nature.

Date of the last update: 19.05.2023

It is not enough to stimulate curiosity, one must be able to move to the depths.


We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or ‘human flourishing’.

Alain de Botton

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Essence of Interests and Factors that Affect Personal Development
  3. Using the Qualities of the Cultural Landscape in the Development of Interdisciplinary Interests
  4. Selected Philosophical Ideas Conducive to the Development of Interest in Ecotourism
  5. The Pro-health and Therapeutic Role of Interest in Tourism and Recreation


A penetrating and pertinent observation about tourism was made years ago by Schopenhauer, which is more relevant today than ever before. Nomadic life, which signifies the lowest stage of civilisation, finds itself again at the highest level in widespread tourism. The former was the result of misery, while the latter is the result of boredom (Schopenhauer 1995, p. 71), Another great thinker, Nietzsche, pointed to the kind of tourism that helps us understand how our society and our identity have been formed by the past, and thus gain a sense of continuity and belonging. Nietzsche made a distinction between collecting data and using already known facts for internal, psychological enrichment. Information assimilated through tourism should enliven and enrich our lives (see Nietzsche 1912).

Contemporary essayist Alain de Botton, in his excellent book The Art of Travel, notes that instead of bringing back 1,600 species of plants from a trip, we can return with a collection of small, unimpressive but “life-enriching” thoughts (see de Botton 2010). Similarly, Cynarski (2009) states that it is not just the need to “consume’’ one more tourist attraction that should motivate today’s tourist, but a “need of the heart,” a mission, an important goal whether for one’s own self-realisation or for other, society-wide goals. Merski and Koscielnik (2009), on the other hand, point to the special importance of travel for personality development, for a person’s self education and preparation for various social roles, functions and tasks. The authors stress the value of direct personal contact with objects of nature, culture and civilization that one experiences through travel.

In order for all these positive values to be experienced through tourism, it is necessary to develop interests in travel and recreation from an early age. The alternative to boredom, which is a common motive for tourism and recreational activities, will be creative passion. A huge challenge arises here for schools and educators. Tourism is a modern psychological, social, economic and spatial phenomenon (see Przeclawski 2009). It is an activity that is conducive to the formation of interdisciplinary interests and comprehensive personality development, and – particularly important in modern times – can play a pro-health and therapeutic role. The purpose of this essay is to expose and make readers aware of the great qualities of tourism and recreation.

The Essence of Interests and Factors that Affect Personal Development

To be interested in something means to learn selectively about the surrounding world, to strive to deepen one’s knowledge of selected issues and to solve problems, but also, or even primarily, to experience feelings associated with the acquisition and possession of knowledge. This understanding of the concept of ‘interest’ is pointed out in the works of Gurycka (1955, 1989).

Schools can play a significant role in the development of individuals’ interests, especially through extracurricular activities. Gurycka (1955) highlights the need for extracurricular activities in two forms: specialised classes for students who have already developed particular interests, and activities that arouse cognitive activity in students who have yet to develop their own passions. The latter form of extracurricular activity is very important and can perform a psychocorrectional function, leading to an increase in self-esteem through the mastery of a chosen interest. 

Gurycka (1955) conducted a pedagogical experiment in several Warsaw schools, where she created interest circles for students with learning difficulties. These circles didn’t focus on school subjects, but on more creative and alternative activities such as geological experiences and photography, led by instructors from outside the school. Students eagerly participated in these activities and, for example, while learning about minerals, rocks and excavations from past eras during geological excursions, the students themselves discovered the regularities of the Earth’s structure and its history. The interests developed by the students turned into cognitive passions and consequently improved their grades in related subjects. The study concluded that it was not a student’s innate weakness that led to learning difficulties, but rather that a lack of personal interests reduced motivation and led to poor academic performance. Unfortunately, Gurycka found that there is a lack of such interest circles in schools, and the few that exist are often exclusive to students who score highly in school subjects.

J. Bruner (1978, 2006) distinguished two types of teaching, only one of which is conducive to the development of interests:

  1. Explanatory teaching, where knowledge is provided by the teachers and absorbed by students. According to the term of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, the student has a sense of alienation of this knowledge, it comes from outside, and is quickly forgotten.
  2. Hypothetical teaching, where students are provided with preliminary information that stimulates and guides their minds to independently go beyond the information provided, and creatively solve problems. This way of acquiring knowledge arouses emotional involvement and is enjoyable for students, making it the best approach at each level of schooling. Unfortunately, the explanatory teaching model is the most dominant. With regard to universities, it is worth noting that from a didactic point of view, the lecture format is the worst form of instruction.

Interactive exercises – especially field exercises – and conversation classes should be the dominant teaching format. However, lectures currently dominate the education system and there is a trend toward combined lectures for many groups and disciplines. The lack of personal contact between the lecturer and the student is important, and it is well known that the personality of the teacher and the students’ engagement with them plays a major role in the student’s development of interest in the subject. Classes in small groups allow more teacher-student engagement, and provide an opportunity for both parties to express themselves. Today’s students generally learn in silence, including during exams, which are mostly test-based. Sometimes an entire course of study goes by without a student interacting with their professor.

In the context of the current education systems, the study of tourism and recreation seems particularly susceptible to the use of the hypothetical model, especially in field classes and through an appropriate selection of subject literature. The students should also familiarise themselves with high-end travel literature, so that after graduation they can recommend it to others and develop the mindsets of future tourists. The role of such literature is pointed out by Przeclawski (2009), among others. At the same time, it is worth emphasising that the mass character of tourism, the mercantile attitude to many tour operators, and the unification of tourist services reflect and consolidate the consumerist nature of modern study.

Pabian (2006) notes that superficial information and misleading news creates an attitude of passivity towards the world, without much excitement, emotional engagement and intellectual effort. Tourists receive random, context-free information and lose the ability to think abstractly and understand metaphors. All this is certainly not conducive to the development of interest in exploring the many cultures of the world.

Institutions that train future tourist operators have an important role in changing the education system. Machnik and Kurczewski (2007) note that these educational institutions should provide their students with a combination of comprehensive knowledge of the world, as well as the development of sensitivity and curiosity, and the ability to perceive beauty in their surroundings. Connecting with the beauty of nature and art can provide important emotional and even spiritual experiences, though these are dependent on the prior development of interests and passions. 

For example, John Ruskin – English critic and theorist of art and architecture – was an important teacher of developing individuals’ sensitivity to the small details seen in the world around them. Ruskin was concerned about how rarely people notice these details, and about the increasing blindness and haste of modern tourists, especially amateurs that would cross the whole of Europe in one week by train (a touristic experience introduced in 1862 by Thomas Cook). Ruskin encouraged tourists to draw, arguing that recreating what people see with their own senses is more valuable to their experience than taking photographs. Although Ruskin taught drawing classes, he argued that what he taught was the capacity to see. To him, drawing had little to do with talent and artistic value, and rather that it helped students to go from mere ‘looking’ to the active capacity to ‘see’ and absorb their surroundings. Ruskin’s teachings, although they were carried out in the nineteenth century, are more relevant than ever today. In his own words: “Moving from place to place at a hundred miles per hour will not make us stronger, happier or wiser. There has always been more in the world than man could see, no matter how slowly he moves; he will not see more by moving fast. The real value is in thought and vision, not speed. Speed befits a bullet from a gun, while man, if he is to be a true man, will do no harm if he slows down.” (quoted by de Botton 2010, pp. 203-204).

Using the Qualities of the Cultural Landscape in the Development of Interdisciplinary Interests

German geographer Carl Troll developed the term ‘landscape ecology’ in 1939. According to Troll, ‘landscape’ as a whole is a combination of the geosphere (rocks, water, air), the biosphere (all living things), and the noosphere – the sphere of thought and reason in relation to Earth, also known as the anthroposphere (Rychling and Solon, 1994). Farina and Belgrano (2006) assume that the landscape is a functional space in which natural and human-regulated processes occur. According to the theory of complexity, there are many ways to perceive a landscape, depending on the role of the observer. The interconnectivity of everything that exists on planet Earth (mountains, plains, seas, lakes, air, plants, animals, and humans – as a biological, social, economic and cultural being) is what forms a landscape. In this sense, landscape is a relatively new concept that is only now being formed in our consciousness (Wolski 2002).

The above approach to landscapes takes into account elements of anthropogenic origin, and emphasises the role of the observer; the human mind becomes an important – or even the main – element of the landscape. This epistemological approach to the landscape is of particular importance to the modern development of tourist interests. By learning about landscapes, we get to know ourselves better, and strengthen our self-esteem. This was well expressed by July (2008, p. 30), who argued that “it is worth getting to know the world and oneself in traversing it.” Piotrowski (2009) also writes that in travelling even a short distance we can meet interesting people, as well as meet ourselves in a new context. A tourist learning about a historic cultural landscape should be made aware of its subjective, as well as its social and historical dimensions. This interdisciplinary approach to cultural landscapes was presented in a book edited by T. C. Smout (2002). 

Czepczynski (2010) points out that the landscape – as a product of human values, meanings and symbols – reflects the aspirations of power, as well as history, recorded in a system of symbols and signs. Some landscapes are associated with particularly rich symbolism and legends (see Kopczynski and Skoczylas, 2006). In a comprehensive study on cultural landscapes, Dutch landscape researcher Arnold van der Valk describes the biographical method of landscape research, arguing that information about the landscape would include folk names, customs, songs, and anecdotes, among others. Biography of the landscape is a metaphorical term, yet it captures the spiritual dimension of the landscape and its socio-historical roots (see van der Valk 2009). 

Cultural landscape also enables the aesthetic experience of space and architecture. In contact with the landscape, perception is formed, the imagination develops, and emotions and feelings are triggered. The possibility of simultaneous perception and contemplation of nature and art in this cultural landscape creates a unique opportunity for deeper experiences and reflections on the mutual relationship between nature and art (see Kopczynski and Skoczylas 2008; Kopczynski 2009). For a tourist, these qualities of the landscape can be very inspiring. A teacher on a tour, or even in a lesson – using the hypothetical teaching model – can have an interesting discussion on the essence of nature and art, and on the concept of beauty and harmony.

As de Botton (2010) argues, the most effective way to develop the ability to see the elements of beauty in the landscape is through the visual arts. Landscape can also inspire reflection on the relationship between nature and music: someone who does not appreciate nature, cannot appreciate music either. Music is something cosmic. Without a love of nature, we have no basis for musical passion (Cioran 2003, p. 23). This profound thought of Cioran could stimulate minds and hearts to make creative interpretations, to appeal to students’ own experiences, to encourage them to write an essay in which each of them can show their vision of nature, music and landscape. The cultural landscape also provides excellent material for philosophical reflection. 

Many prominent philosophers have recognised the ideological dimension of the landscape, sometimes devoting essays to it. Others, even without speaking directly about landscapes, offered deep reflections on the mutual relationship between nature and art, as well as on humans as a particle of nature and a creator of art (see Kopczynski and Skoczylas 2008). For example, Georg Simmel offered many reflections on landscape. According to Simmel, the phenomenon of landscape lies in the fact that within its defined boundaries, it contains a boundless entity. Simmel also emphasises that the material of the landscape provided by nature is infinitely varied and constantly changing, so that binding these elements into a unity of impressions can be done according to very different criteria and forms. To get at least a rough idea of this, it is necessary to perceive the landscape as a work of art (see Simmel, 2006).

Prominent American ecologist Eugene Odum likened the ecological niches of different species of living organisms to the occupations performed by humans. A diversity of occupations is necessary for the proper functioning of human society. It is not difficult to imagine that a shortage of people engaged in certain professions would make the further development of the human species difficult, or even impossible. Similarly, ecological and landscape diversity is necessary for the functioning of ecosystems, with each species performing a specific task. Odum (1998) points out that also in land use planning and landscape design, diversity is the most important aspect. The diversity of both natural and managed ecosystems is not only aesthetically beneficial, but also essential for sustaining life in the given ecosystem. According to Odum, this “double benefit” is an interesting aspect of landscape philosophy. The fact that it is both an aesthetic phenomenon and a functional system inspires reflections on the essence of landscape and its metaphysical dimension.

The dominant philosophies of a given time have an important impact on the way people treat their travel experiences. Inversely, practising the art of travel is also important for shaping philosophical thought, as pointed out by Wieczorkiewicz (2008). Rousseau’s views on the essence of travel can be taken as a message for the modern tourist. Rousseau expressed some disdain towards books, for their interference with the subjective ‘Book of the World’. Other people’s descriptions are of little value if we have not experienced what they refer to. We gain less by reading travel books than by focusing on the sensations of nature, and the activity most conducive to this experience is hiking, which gives a sense of freedom, allowing direct contact with the space one is walking through (Wieczorkiewicz, 2008; Rousseau, 1955), Experiencing the landscape around us can develop natural and artistic interests, and allows us to independently discover the value of the natural and cultural environment.

For tourism and recreation, landscape is of fundamental importance, although the qualities of the landscape have not yet been properly appreciated either in tourism or in education. In the study of tourism and recreation, conversion courses in landscape philosophy and landscape psychology should be incorporated – at least as optional courses – as they would significantly enrich the educational content.

Selected Philosophical Ideas Conducive to the Development of Interest in Ecotourism

Among the definitions cited in the latest edition of the book ‘Ecotourism’ by Dominika Zaręba, Richard Denman’s definition is particularly relevant to the development of interest:

“Ecotourism is travelling to study, admire and enjoy the beauty of landscapes, observe wild animals and plants, as well as admire local customs and culture (Zaręba 2010, p. 51)”. However, it is necessary to add the definition of Elizabeth Boo of the World Conservation Fund as “a journey into nature that contributes to its conservation” (Zaręba 2010, p. 51). The goal of ecotourism should be to admire the beauty of the creations of nature and culture. The amazement of the world, after all, is the first impulse of philosophising. Ralph Waldo Emerson considered the noblest priesthood of nature to be showing the presence of God (see Emerson, 2005). Beautiful landscapes can offer travellers transcendental experiences, allowing them to connect with a higher power.

To develop interest in ecotourism, philosophical ideas on the spiritual dimension of nature can be particularly inspiring. The trends in ecophilosophy and ecopedagogy are particularly relevant here. One area of ecophilosophy created by Henryk Skolimowski sees the world as a sanctuary. According to Skolimowski, this perspective immediately changes everything: the nature of the world, man’s place in the cosmos, and the nature of man himself. By seeing the world as a sanctuary, man treats his surroundings with care. From this viewpoint, humans’ interaction with the world is based on reverence, attentiveness, and responsibility for all lifeforms (Skolimowski 1999, 2005), Ame Naess – the creator of the concept of ‘ecosophy T’ – introduced the concept of the self, which he identified not only with the ecosphere, but with the entire universe (Naess, 1994). 

The philosophical thought of Skolimowski and Naess also relates to Spinoza’s philosophy. An important aspect of this philosophy is pantheism: the identification of God with nature, and a mystical attitude toward nature, described by Skolimowski (2003) as ‘rational mysticism’. Spinoza preached the rational love of God (Amor Dei intellectualis) and believed that there is nothing in Nature that is opposed to this rational love. Spinoza also expressed the view that the more we understand individual things, the more we understand God. By learning about individual phenomena in nature, by exploring every particle of nature, we come to know God better (see Spinoza, 1954), The attitude toward the world and nature presented by Spinoza, and his love of reason for God is conducive to the formation of interest. To be interested is not only to know, but to love the object of interest, and to experience intense feelings. The content of feelings is, first of all, experiencing the subject’s bond with the environment, with the environment itself, and with people and other living beings.

The development of this bond between humans and nature is the goal of pro-ecological parenting and education in the broadest sense (see Kopczynski 2001, 2010). The ideas of ecological pedagogy have a momentous worldview (see Kleber, 1993; Gaworecki, 2010), discussing the function of ecological awareness, and stating that often the declared ecological awareness of tourists remains at odds with their behaviour. The overall correlation coefficient between the two, obtained on the basis of German studies according to Gaworecki, is 0.35, which means that the correlation is very small. However, if one thinks more deeply about these data, it raises the question of how much environmental awareness we really have. After all, to be aware of something is to understand it and act in accordance with it. For the development of environmental consciousness, the vision of the world as a single whole of closely interconnected ecosystems can be of great importance. This vision gained a special dimension in the so-called Gaia hypothesis. Its creator – James Lovelock – argues that the regulation or state of mutual adjustment of life and the environment, is a property of the whole system including life, air, oceans and rocks. Here the earth is compared to a living organism (see Lovelock, 2003; 2006). 

Wittgenstein expressed the idea that what is mystical is the feeling of the world as a limited whole (Wittgenstein, 1970). Similar ideas are found in the philosophical system of Spinoza and Teilhard de Chardin. The latter wrote that the world is a logical space-time, and claimed that nothing can be perceived except as a part of this space-time (Teilhard de Chardin 1993). The origin of tourism should be seen in humans’ innate tendencies to explore and dominate their surrounding environment. Some discussions on the impulse to travel refer to biophilia, as a biologically determined need for contact with nature (Winiarski and Zdebski, 2008). With the development of civilisation, exploration’s existential significance shifted, and exploration and travel began to provide humans with a sense of competence and inner development.

Ecotourism is bound to significantly enhance this sense of competence and elevate the tourist to a higher level of development. This type of tourism can also contribute to the development of an ecological paradigm of thinking, which in turn will create a fuller understanding of the essence and value of life.

The Pro-health and Therapeutic Role of Interest in Tourism and Recreation

Today, leisure time and how it is used is an important factor and indicator of overall quality of life. It used to be unthinkable that leisure time, which was already sparsely allocated to people, could cause difficulties. Just trying to increase it was already a problem. Now, leisure time is a new field of applied psychology, and it has many new factors to study (see Benesch, 1999; Bubble, 2002). Leisure time can be devoted to ‘recreation’, understood as an activity during which one can either relax, have fun, enrich one’s knowledge for personal satisfaction, or actively participate in family and social life (Bubble, 2002). Tourism plays an important role in leisure activities. Interest in tourism and recreation leads to an improved quality of life and overall health. 

The determinants and mechanisms of health are explained by Aaron Antonovsky’s salutogenesis model, which has become a breakthrough in the health sciences. The central concept of the salutogenetic concept is the sense of coherence, which consists of three interrelated components:

  1. Comprehensibility – a person’s perception of incoming information as orderly, structured, clear and coherent, so that he or she has a sense of being able to comprehend, evaluate, understand and predict the information,
  2. Resourcefulness – the degree to which available resources are perceived by a person as sufficient to meet the demands of the environment, and
  3. Meaningfulness – the degree to which a person feels that life has meaning, that at least some of the challenges that life brings are worth the effort, sacrifice and commitment.

Check out also: Ecotherapy as a form of support for activation of seniors

The results of many studies indicate that a sense of coherence positively affects health and stress management (Antonovsky, 2005; Woynarowska, 2008). The sense of competence, inner development and dominance over one’s surrounding environment increases with tourist activities. Recreation promotes inner tranquillity and physical fitness. Tourism and recreation fit perfectly into the salutogenetic model, enhancing all levels of coherence.

A sense of connection with the natural environment helps people to find meaning in daily life. It is not only perceived as a whole, but as places to which certain meanings are attributed, with which certain emotions are associated (Kałamucka, 2009). People’s proximity to nature and the benefits of nearby forests, water and clean air are all important for well-being (Swieca and Tucki, 2009; Sniadek and Zajadacz, 2008). In light of the social-ecological concept of health, lifestyle is of greatest importance. A healthy lifestyle is influenced by many factors, but physical activity has a leading role. Therefore, physical recreation plays a dominant preventive and therapeutic role in the modern world (see Krawczyk, 2007). It is also worth highlighting the importance of interests in the lives of people with disabilities, and especially the role of interest in tourism in the lives of children and adolescents with disabilities. A handicapped person with a passion for a particular activity may find that this interest compensates for their disability, and helps them find meaning in life (Kopczynski, 1999). Tourism for such people can help prevent hypokinesia (deficiency of movement). For children with disabilities, a trip or other form of tourism can be an opportunity to establish contact with peers. 

Tourism has recreational, educational, and social functions, and can be an exceptional tool for teachers, assisting the process of social integration of children with disabilities with their peers (see Drogosz, 2009). Interests can also be developed in elderly people (Przeclawski, 2009). The challenge is that with old age leisure becomes increasingly passive, with low levels of physical activity. In the sphere of social activity, activities in civic organisations are increasingly designed for the benefit of younger generations. In the sphere of culture, limited participation is also becoming evident. It is therefore necessary to promote active preparation for old age. Interest in tourism and recreation seems the most appropriate course of action here.

The German poet of the Romantic era Joseph von Eichendorff said: “Where the enthusiast stands, there is the top of the world.” Let this maxim be the conclusion of this essay, and be a guiding thought for the reader in tourism and in life.


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Kazimierz Kopczyński
In my scientific and popularization activities , as well as teaching, I preach the idea of a holistic approach to Man, Earth and the Universe. I am an enthusiast of ecophilosophy, which points to the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of Nature. I am currently a researcher at Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce and at the Higher School of National Economy in Kutno. I graduated from the department of psychology at the University of Lodz, specialty- clinical psychology. I am a graduate of postgraduate studies in Geology at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Ecology and Environmental Protection at the University of Lodz, , Medical Law, Bioethics and Medical Sociology at the University of Warsaw , and Geriatrics and Long-Term Care at the Jagiellonian University. I am a member of the Polish Botanical Society, the Polish Mycological Society, the Polish Copernicus Society of Naturalists and the Polish Suicidological Society.