Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dark tourism: reflection and connection

Taking a journey only the internet can offer, yesterday I followed a series of links originating in a travel blog and ended up in the figurative crying room of the travel industry: "dark tourism." The term, also known as "black tourism" or "grief tourism," signifies travel to destinations associated with death and suffering.

I had no idea such a niche existed. Sure, I know sites like Auschwitz and Gettysburg draw millions of visitors, but I didn't realize such tourism had its own term and cottage industry. But I suppose it makes sense. Travel to such places inspires reflection about our personal and collective losses, and enables us to connect to our past, whether individually—by visiting a site where a loved one or ancestor died—or collectively—communing in a place where violent events affected a nation or the entire world.

As I thought more about it, I began to remember more and more such "dark tourism" sites that I myself have visited. I've been to the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and contemplated how that loss affected our country. I made a pilgrimage to Gettysburg with my family, where my great-great-great grandfather fought and thousands died. I've passed the sunken remains of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor and thought about the hundreds of sailors still entombed in that wreck to this day. I've stood above Ground Zero and tried to imagine what the victims and survivors who were there on September 11 must have felt. I've gazed upon the 168 memorial markers at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and thought about how many of them represented children whose lives ended too soon.

I guess part of me has a fascination with dark tourism. Someday I'd like to visit the Puerto Rican island of Culebra, where my uncle Jack drowned during Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. I also think a visit to a Nazi concentration camp would mean a lot, as I try to comprehend how human beings could treat other human beings with such brutality. Maybe that's just it: perhaps dark tourism helps us to better understand the human condition.

Labels: ,


Anonymous eva said...

Hi Mike,
my name is Eva and I am John Melson's wife. John forwarded me the link to your travel blogs and it's very interesting reading material. A couple of months ago, we went to Austria to visit my family and we brought one of my friends with us. We showed her around a little bit and also made some time to visit a former Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen. Our few hours of dark tourism. It's really heartbraking to see. You walk through gas chambers and dissecting rooms, very depressing.
But it's also a reminder that we (human beings) should never let anything even close to this happen again.

May 1, 2008 at 10:05 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home