Why “Dark Tourism” Matters
Why do we travel? The answers to this question are endless but include everything from seeing new places, to trying new food, to learning about and experiencing other cultures. But shouldn’t we also travel to learn about the past, learn FROM the past even if it means becoming uncomfortable, feeling sad, or even crying in public?
I think for most people (myself included), one doesn’t get AS emotional at battlefields where fighting took place well over 200 years ago. Just as with the statute of limitations with the law, the same goes for feeling emotional in a sense. When a battle, a heinous crime happened so long ago you just don’t feel the same emotional attachment as you do for something that happened in your lifetime or the lifetime of your parents or grandparents (first-hand accounts that are passed on directly to you).
Many people don’t understand why some seek out “dark places” when they travel. And by dark, this could be a cemetery, a concentration camp, or a former POW prison. It’s not that I’m a morbid person (hardly). But I am and have always been interested in history and not necessarily ancient history, but more “modern” events of the last 300 years. When I was growing up, I read countless children’s narratives written by former Holocaust survivors. If I say I’ve always dreamt about visiting a concentration camp, yes, that sounds horrid. But you see, I’ve read so much about this horrific period in modern history that I want to visit one in person to pay my respects. As powerful as words on a page can be, nothing is as powerful as seeing these instruments of death firsthand. Places like Auschwitz and Dachau weren’t destroyed in the aftermath of World War II so they could forever stand as stark and somber testaments to what once took place there, to show what men are capable of doing to each other.
Robben Island prison (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost three decades), the Hanoi Hilton, the Old Slave Mart in Charleston, South Carolina where humans were once bought and sold-all of these places have the most hellish and tragic of pasts. And yet these are all places I want to see with my own eyes. Traveling isn’t always about feeling good and happy when you visit a particular site or destination. The world is not a perfect place and has never been, as history has shown. Being a traveler means you’re a citizen of the world and to me, that includes seeing both the good and the bad, the happy and sad parts, and educating those who aren’t able to travel themselves.
Have you visited any sites associated with “dark tourism”?
Has it given you a perspective different from what you’d anticipated?