FAQ – frequently asked questions

... this is just a short list of questions that I have been asked in the past ... I'm sure this section will grow over time as more people encounter this website ...
Q: Isn't all this "dark tourism" just plain voyeurism and thus morally wrong?

A: No!!! It's still quite a common initial misunderstanding on encountering the term 'dark tourism' for the first time, especially in the media, who routinely go into moral-panic mode as if by reflex (see other sources, esp. the iDTR's media website or for a concrete example under Black Taxi Tours, Belfast). They automatically seem to assume it's all about doom and gloom and blood and gore. But that's a misconception. In reality, most of dark tourism isn't morally suspicious in any way. Just look at how the places in question are treated here on these pages. I trust anyone can see that it's all done with due respect and not in an exploitative manner. Also, most dark tourists behave in a respectful and thoughtful manner when visiting such "difficult" sites as former concentration camps. It cannot be ruled out that some visitors will leave something to be desired in this respect (and I occasionally criticize this severely – see e.g. Sachsenhausen, Choeung Ek, or Stutthof), but for the vast majority of visitors it can definitely not be assumed that they go to such places out of any plain voyeuristic motives. Dark tourism is mostly a type of educational travel, often as history tourism, only that the history in question is recent (sometimes even current). See also the separate entries for ethical issues and beyond dark tourism proper. Check out this page too, which offers a more elaborate response to the common "moral panic" accusations of dark tourism being something bad ... I repeat: it is not!

Q: Have you personally been to all the places described on this website?

No – but I've been to a good majority of them (about four fifths of them so far). See my mission statement! The length of the relevant chapter is an indication: if it's long and detailed, structured into subsections, including descriptions of emotional impressions, then of course this is based on first-hand experience gathered on-site (I usually say when exactly I've been to a place too – though not necessarily always). If, however, the text is just a short stub, then I've either not been there yet, or I have but haven't yet found the time to write a full entry.
However, I intend to carry on travelling to dark places, ideally until I've been to most of these sites. (A few ultra-extreme ones, such as the wreck of the Titanic will probably forever remain out of my reach – for financial reasons alone; similarly Bikini – unless I learn to scuba-dive, which I doubt I'll ever even try.)

Q: Have you always been interested in such dark destinations?

Yes – even long before I knew that a term for this existed. I presume that'll be the case for the majority of dark tourists… See also the separate deliberations in the about section on why this interest in dark travel.

Q: Doesn't dealing with all this dark stuff make you depressed?

No, not me – or rather: if I do get depressed than usually not because of dealing with dark tourism. Although I have to admit that researching some of the places has involved some emotional strain, I cannot deny that (I remember Treblinka shaking me more than most other places – I also noticed I had to write that entry up in smaller doses than normal … Murambi was another especially hard one …).
However, I derive a degree of educational edification out of researching and visiting these places – and that outweighs any depressing "mental health hazards". And I believe the most prototypical of my readers will feel the same. Nevertheless I concede that people less accustomed to such "darkness" may find it more difficult to deal with such things.

Q: Why are places such as Darfur, Haiti, Iraq, South Ossetia, etc. not covered on your site – they are very dark places, aren't they?

Because, while they are surely very dark, they are not at the same time tourist destinations. Remember to take into account both parts of the concept of dark tourism – not just the 'dark' but also the 'tourism'! It's anyway less about currently dark places, but rather about places with a dark history and that can later be visited by tourists (namely those especially interested in the darker side of the world) … and that they can be visited in a way that is safe (not e.g. danger tourism) and ethically justifiable. That's not – yet – the case with e.g. Darfur. But things may change in the future (e.g. Iraq – cf. Baghdad). If they do, they may have to be covered on this website too one day.

Q: Aren't you ever afraid when you go to all those dangerous places?

No, because I don't, as a rule, go to dangerous places. Dark tourism is NOT the same as danger tourism. Almost all the places I've travelled to did not involve any disproportionate risks. OK, in some places you do need to take a calculated risk, but if you calculate it well, it's as good a negligible (cf. Israel or Juarez in Mexico – see under El Paso). I've never travelled to any active war zones, or places so torn apart by conflict that travelling in them as a foreigner would have been irresponsible. The greatest risks I have ever taken may have been those where the danger was invisible: radiation, e.g. in Chernobyl or at the Polygon. But even then, careful precautions were taken to minimize any risks. Some of the transport I had in Indonesia was also perhaps a bit dicy, but that was not deliberate on my part.
Some places simply make people assume they must be dodgy because they get such a bad press, such as North Korea. But to be totally frank: that particular country was probably the very least risky; I've hardly ever felt any safer than I did there (there's virtually no crime, certainly none directed at foreigners). And the only place where anything concretely unpleasant ever happened to me was Beijing, China … and that was only a stolen camera, no violence involved.    

Q: Do you offer organized tours or guide services on such dark-tourism themes?

Yes and no. This is not a travel agent's website but a resource for information. I am not licensed as a travel agent or tour guide (not yet, at least). However, I did offer tours of my own in the past and may resume this at some point in the future. I also co-operate with others putting itineraries together, using my contacts in the business. At the very least I may be able to give you hints in the right direction in your travel planning. So if you have any planning question, just ask. Little questions or very general enquiries I'll answer for free, but if more effort and research is required on my part then I will have to charge a consultation fee commensurate to my time investment.
See consultation, and the contact form.


© dark-tourism.com, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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