Disaster Tourism - an exploration of "dark travel"
January 26, 2018 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Long form HuffPo (via Highline) article that explores, first-hand, the world of Disaster Tourism. Long, (mostly) well-written article with just enough self-awareness to ask some important questions. Warning - a lot of drunken bro-ness, combined with hungover observations - but how else could one partake of such a trip?
posted by dbmcd (22 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
fuck this Young Pioneers group

re: Otto Warmbeir and his offense in NK (he was on a forbidden floor and supposedly took a poster)

“Sure,” I said, “but didn’t I read that you guys have some kind of rite of passage where you run down the forbidden floor in your North Korean hotel?”

“That floor is an open secret, yes,” Shane said. “But we never encourage people to go there because then we’d lose our jobs.”



it's a wonder more Americans have not ended up as international incidents because of this group.
posted by sio42 at 11:50 AM on January 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


how else could one partake of such a trip?

well, they could just not go and not give the north korean government hard currency?
posted by anem0ne at 12:35 PM on January 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't know what I expected from this article, but it certainly wasn't being so filled with disgust at these pieces of shit that I become increasingly nauseated while reading.
posted by medusa at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


medusa, that was my reaction exactly. And I don't mean nauseated ideologically or morally--even aside from the ideological and moral questions (which are huge, don't get me wrong, and brought their own revulsion), I ended up feeling a very bodily and visceral disgust for the whole tour group, author included. Especially regarding the strong central presence and role of alcohol.

'Oh ho ho, I got so hammered that I passed out and didn't notice when I literally shit my pants on the train from water/food poisoning!'

'Oh ho ho, I nearly puked right at the dinner table at the home of our extremely poor widowed host!'

'Wow, we were all surprised that that guy claimed he had never pissed himself while drunk!'

...I mean, this is normal to them? This is all oh ho ho ho fun?? Get the hell away from me.
posted by theatro at 1:19 PM on January 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


I really enjoyed this piece of writing. Thanks for posting. I did not think they were pieces of shit.
posted by josher71 at 1:20 PM on January 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


I try not to think of people as pieces of shit, in general. These are a troubled set of travelers.

Personal, I prefer the sort of people you find round Khao San Road.
posted by Braeburn at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't know what I expected from this article, but it certainly wasn't being so filled with disgust at these pieces of shit that I become increasingly nauseated while reading.

I got about nine paragraphs in and gave up.
posted by Splunge at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


1. What is the point of this if literally the only thing to do is get drunk. Have these people never heard of the Elks Club? Are there no dive bars? No 7-11s? No water bottles to fill with cheap vodka while you travel on the cheap and embarrass yourself in front of the citizens of a country that the US has diplomatic relations with?

2. It isn't exactly as bad as what I imagined from the headline, which was a company that offered you a chance to overthrow a small foreign government for a few grand, like the fake kidnapping company that made the rounds a few years ago, except more cartoonishly evil.

3. I mean it's not not a cartoonishly evil thing to do, it's just not the literal worst thing I can imagine.

4. If North Korea is "extremely safe," then how the eff does it make you a dark adventure pioneer wizard bro or whatever to go there?

5. What the hell were they going to tag the selfies with Ramzan Kadyrov, if they got them? #shakehandswiththedevil?

6. I mean, that's cheap, it's so easy to take potshots at these people that it feels vaguely unsporting. Jin the obsessive Russophile sounded particularly unhappy. I can (in fact, see 3.) think of worse things to do than inject some American dollars directly into the economy of a miserable and isolated place (Think of the music videos the tour guides can now fund!). But I'm not sure I can think of worse people to do them with.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:09 PM on January 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


the worst bits were the facile pseudo-philosophical ones. like he‘s trying to present a veneer of thoughtfulness but it‘s all cargo cult ethics.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Is this part of a submarine PR campaign by Logan Paul?
posted by rhizome at 3:12 PM on January 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


This seems a particularly apt choice of words: I get to escape my daily life by finding new, unique daily lives to impinge upon.

"Authenticity" in tourism is such a weird concept. In particular, the variation where the presence of too many other tourists somehow dilutes the "authenticity" of an experience.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:34 PM on January 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


The illustration just above the paragraph that starts "At the Muzeon Park of Arts, an open-air gallery of Soviet sculptures" is a statue of Lenin that has been in Seattle since the 90s. They didn't include the guns and flames around the base in the drawing though, which is kind of a shame.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:45 PM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I actually found the author just as reprehensible as the company etc - in some ways worse as his wan stabs at having a conscious display a sense that he knows it's wrong, but doesn't care.
posted by smoke at 4:14 PM on January 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


the worst bits were the facile pseudo-philosophical ones. like he‘s trying to present a veneer of thoughtfulness but it‘s all cargo cult ethics.

Can you expand on this? I don't understand what this means.
posted by josher71 at 4:31 PM on January 26, 2018


Yeah, the drinking. How old are these people? 14? Drinking isn't an accomplishment. It isn't even interesting. I've traveled in Russia, and -- yeah, you have to drink toasts with the locals. But the being drunk part was of zero memorability. Being drunk in Russia is just like being drunk in Brooklyn. You're drunk. Whoopee.
posted by Modest House at 4:53 PM on January 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


These people all remind me a lot of the more hardcore cultist types I encountered through couchsurfing.com a decade ago. And, actually, given that those same people would be well into their 30s and 40s now, I wouldn't be surprised if some of them were traveling with these tour companies. The description of Ruud in particular was so similar to a Finnish guy I met at a beer garden in Prague that I started wondering the author had fudged the names/origins.

Any decent night of drinking always seemed to quickly devolve into a bragging competition of who had been to the most obscure places. Just a race to tick as many off the list without ever giving a thought to their footprints' consequences.
posted by mannequito at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can you expand on this? I don't understand what this means.

josher71, I didn’t make the original comment, but I thought Omnomnom put it well. Throughout the piece it feels like the author is making the case for forgiving himself this series of indulgences on the basis that sometimes he asks himself contemplative rhetorical questions.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes contemplative rhetorical questions are super, but there’s a kind of paint-by-numbers quality to Kent’s musings that makes them feel like window dressing.
posted by Construction Concern at 6:08 PM on January 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Being drunk in Russia is just like being drunk in Brooklyn.

Or if you're in Brighton Beach, then it's both!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:28 PM on January 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


Tough crowd. I don’t generally have a lot of patience for entitled douchebros (none, to be exact) but I thought the article was fine, good reading, and kind of gave me an idea what this subculture is about.
posted by The Toad at 8:22 PM on January 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


I thought the article was fine, but I have no idea what an Austro-Australian is.
posted by um at 8:29 PM on January 27, 2018


My big issue with this article and the whole tour group thing is that they aren't even experiencing anything. It's like an English-language bubble of booze and obliviousness. A race to say you've been someplace without having actually experienced that place. Everything about this article made me sad.
posted by misterpatrick at 12:49 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'd assume an Austro-Australian is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_Australians. Though the "Austro" prefix makes it sound old-fashioned, like Austro-Hungary.
posted by theatro at 6:21 AM on January 29, 2018


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