I was recently exposed to the concept of ‘dark tourism.’ Now, if you don't exactly know what that is, let me explain. Dark tourism is as follows: ‘tourism directed to places that are identified with death and suffering.’ Not to be a pessimist, but a lot of human history is built upon these foundations, and many tourist attractions revolve around them.
I know what you're thinking, why on earth would I be writing about this? Well, I never thought I would, but the fact of the matter is I've visited places that would fall under this terminology. I've never thought of myself as a seeker of death and suffering, but this concept would place me in that category.
There are many opinions on this topic. Some would claim it’s grotesque curiosity and others see it as remembrance, learning, culture, and history. So, what is it? Well, that depends on whom you ask, and what kind of sights/tours/actions people take. If you are to ask me, most ‘dark tourism’ falls under human nature.
For example, visiting Auschwitz, Ground Zero, or the Killing Grounds in Cambodia would make you a dark tourist. While I understand people's desire to stay clear of these historical sights, I see them as that, history. While unimaginable tragedy occurred at these sights they are events that took place and should be acknowledged, remembered, and learned from.
The subject of dark tourism is a big subject, and there are multiple levels to consider. You have the big sights like I mentioned above, where great tragedy took place, but millions of tourists visit each and every year. Does that mean we are all dark tourist to a certain degree? Are we fascinated by death? The event that took place? Or is it morbid curiosity?
As far as I’m concerned, I think this is human nature. We are drawn to what we don’t understand and don’t acknowledge. We want to experience something we can never fully comprehend. We are all affected by these events in one way or another, so we are drawn to these sights. Which I think is fine. However, take that with a grain of salt.
I have personally visited sights of death and treated them with respect. These were people. They had lives, families, and friends. We should treat them and these location with respect.
It seems like in our technological world people are forgetting, and becoming desensitized to true tragedy. They desecrate tombs, they make horrible jokes, and take tasteless selfies in the sombre locations. Don’t forget where you are and what took place.
In the end, travel is meant to open our eyes to other cultures and event, even if they are dark in nature. I say experience these sights, but do so in a respectful way and always pay attention to whom you are supporting.
What do you think about dark tourism? I touched on just the lukewarm surface and would love to hear your thoughts!