Not to be confused with “battleground tourism” (where history buffs and older folks peruse WW2 battle sites and such), “war tourism” is when the danger of regular adventure just isn’t enough. Increasingly, those looking to head far away from the beaten path are going clear off the reservation. Destinations like Iraq, South Sudan, Iran, the depths of cartel country in Mexico, these are the places people are getting their kicks, where they bear witness to inhuman, violent acts firsthand rather than on the six o’clock news. Unless it requires being smuggled across a border or carries the real possibility of being kidnapped by insurgents, beheaded by narco kings, or being caught in the midst of revolution, the war tourist will pass.
Remember Arab Spring? When the citizens of the Arab World took to the streets in mass protest, lobbed Molotov Cocktails, and were cracked down on in the most brutal fashion by the dictators they were looking to expel? Well that’s prime war tourism real-estate. The itinerant war tourist would delight in a tour that touched down on all of those ravaged regions, perhaps arriving at the tail end of the uprisings in Tunisia after Muhamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in response to police maltreatment. Later they’d venture to Egypt to witness the ousting of Mubarak, then on to Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Syria… you get the point.
But why? Perhaps for the prospect of seeing something few others have in their circle of friends? Maybe to test their fate? To prove some sort of macho, bravado bullshit? Who knows. See, at least war correspondents have the excuse of covering the events for news outlets, lifting the veil on corrupt governments and abusive practices for the world to see. But a mere tourist, the delights they gain remain a mystery. If you are one, let us know.
Recently, Skyscanner.net broke it down nicely into levels of intensity. Following their example, here are the stages of War Tourists’ path to mental breakdown.
Stage One includes areas that sound dangerous, and most likely were very recently, but no longer pose anywhere near as much of a threat. In any event, you’ll get bragging rights with your adventurous friends by dropping names like Sarajevo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Advancing from stage one, rather than seeing the remnants of past disasters, stage two nations are where it’s possible for uprisings and random acts of violence to flare up at any time. You may have to dodge a mortar or be evacuated by the U.S. Government if one of the embassies becomes a target for hostile action. Sound fun? Make your way to Kashmir, Lebanon or Iran.
The cream of the boasting crop for a war tourist is where there is current, ongoing military action, frequent terrorist activities, hired guns and gangsters running dope and slaying all who get in the way, kidnapping, extortion and gruesome ways to die. The obvious ones here are Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, but don’t forget Somalia, Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, Lebanon and Liberia.
If drugs, guns, crime, slavery and mortar fire are your idea of a good time, there’s no shortage of ruined regions replete with enough mayhem to provide a lifetime of miserable memories. Then again, maybe it’ll just make you grateful to be alive.
By Bryan Schatz