In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Susan Trollinger of the University of Dayton examines the growth of tourism in Amish Country and why many of us are fascinated by their way of life.
Susan Trollinger is an associate professor and director of the writing program at the University of Dayton, where her teaching and research interests include classical and visual rhetoric, Amish tourism, and American politics and religion. Her latest book, Selling the Amish: the Tourism of Nostalgia, was released in April 2012. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Susan Trollinger – Amish Tourism
Everyone knows that competing in our high-tech culture requires a laptop, smart phone, and iPad. Everyone also knows the Amish defy this wisdom. They’re so unplugged, they don’t even have electrical sockets! Yet, they thrive. Today, there are 250,000 Amish in North America, double the number 20 years ago. By 2025, the number will double again.
How can a people thrive who won’t drive cars, never mind cruise the information superhighway? This is a great question. And 19 million people travel to Amish Country every year in search of the answer. So, what do they get while there? In my fifteen years studying Amish Country tourism, I learned they get a lot of merchandise, from gift shops, bakeries, and antique malls. And it adds up! Every year, visitors to Amish Country in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio spend more than 1.2 billion dollars.
Beyond getting a lot of stuff, does anything important happen when tourists visit Amish Country? I think so. Consider the Amish-style restaurant. There, visitors enjoy slow-roasted meats, real mashed potatoes, and fresh-baked bread. This is slow food—food that takes time to prepare. And when tourists eat Amish-style food, they experience an answer to their fast-paced lives. Rather than grab and go, they linger at a table over slow food like the Amish do.
Americans also worry about technology. Do they control technology or does it control them? Driving around Amish Country, visitors can see that the Amish use only those technologies that enable them to live as they want. When tourists get stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy, they may wonder if they could do what it would take to control time and technology in their lives. More than merchandise, Amish Country offers visitors the chance to consider living otherwise, like the Amish do.