Dark tourism, dark side of tourism, and the age of selfie tourism
What would it be like to visit a museum that displays Nazi era lampshades made of human skin? How does it feel to swim in a lake created as a result of nuclear tests by the Soviets in Kazakhstan? Will your body and mind withstand the toughness of a paid mock drill that promises to give you a realistic experience of how a Mexican illegally crosses over the border to fulfill his American dream.
Well, there are people whose kicks come from literally travelling the roads less travelled; or better still, taking the un-trodden path however strange these may be. While Elon Mosk plans to make Mars a weekend getaway from planet earth for those who can afford it, dark tourists like David Farrier take special pleasure in taking part in strange death rituals, visiting ghost cities, sites infested with nuclear radiation, memorials associated with assassinated drug lords and presidents, and other such bizarre and dangerous places.
Long time back I watched a few episodes of ‘Dark Tourist’ featuring David Farrier who is a journalist from New Zealand. During my period of convalescence last week, I resumed watching the balance of the eight episode of the series. By the way, one need not be an investigative journalist like David to experience what it feels like to be a dark tourist. Some of the places David toured can be visited by anybody for a fee and without being afraid of the laws of the land. Forget about the real life experience, watching those places and events on TV can itself be sickening for many. ‘Dark Tourist’ is also indicative of the extent to which specialization in travel and adventure can go.
Sometimes I used to wonder how come Thailand has much more foreign tourist footfall than a much larger country like India which has diverse landscapes and cultures and the cost of living being almost the same. No doubt Thailand has made it the list of top ten tourist destinations by international tourists. But it has come with a cost, effecting the personal lives and dignity of particularly women and children. According to reports, Thailand has the highest prevalence of HIV in Southest Asia.
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand. However, authorities have to turn a blind eye to sustain the contribution of tourism to country’s GDP. The big influential mafia network that controls the trade has strong political connections. In fact some politicians secretly own many outlets. So, in case the government wants to risk its GDP for the sake of giving a healthy life to its citizens, it will not be easy to dismantle the network.
Some years back I read about how a fishing village in Srilanka suffered due to the influx of western tourists in stead of being benefited from the sudden tourist boom after the end of the armed internal conflict. The Sri Lankan authorities, in nexus with rich hoteliers drove away the locals and did not compensate those from whom land was taken to project an infrastructure-rich tourist friendly image of the country.
Flooding the space of free video services, on one hand we have these professionally made travel documentaries premiered earlier on some television channels. On the other hand we have these travel and adventure Vlogs where the producer is also its director, cameraman, protagonist, script writer, and editor all rolled into one. Internet has made not only every Tom (me included) a published author, but also every Dick and Harry a director, actor, producer, anchor, and so on.
In most of the self made travel videos you may find the vlogger’s face covering 90% of the screen space 90% of the time, chatting his way to glory about how he brushed his teeth that morning, fumbling to remember the land mark at his back drop or why he is there in the first place. The vlogger is usually a chatterbox of pleasantries and nothingness while you expect him to show the landmark site with clarity or give you some historical or other important information about the site.
Ironically such silly travel videos garner far more views than the professionally made documentaries. One reason could be that silliness, according to some self help gurus, fosters friendliness. Another reason could be that these self made videos are usually shorter in length.
Here is my suggestions to wannabe travel vloggers: please do a little research on the places you are going to cover and don’t go there like a dumb passerby narcissist obsessed with selfie videos.
All posts in the series can be accessed under the tag #watchingsofidlehours