If you flick through most travel magazines you would imagine that the world is made up of a series of luxury spas where compliantly servile locals will anoint you with unguents and stroke away the cares and woes of the modern world. It is a world where you can look from the luxury of a cruise liner upon quaint little natives, who are allowed on board long enough to dance for you, but where you never have to get your feet dirty or sleep in a bed without a choice of pillows no matter how remote the destination. It is a world of refinement where poor people are kept away from the best beaches, where the only locals you will encounter are making beds or serving cocktails, wearing mauve waistcoats or calling you “Bwana”.
This is ‘fluffy travel land’, a place inhabited by travel editors and low grade travel writers. It is a place that PRs for travel companies would like you to believe in. It is a place where everywhere is “the new Shangri-la” – like Narnia with palm trees.
Yet the real world as we know isn’t like that. Those quaint natives have their own lives to lead, and that sometimes involves the odd war, a few famines and the full gamut of human behaviour. Our governments warn us off visiting great swathes of the world, and the travel industry pretends that they just don’t exist.
There are good reasons for this – travelling to these sorts of places is in essence, pretty stupid! Yet there is a small hardcore of travellers who seek out the worlds dangerous places, not because they have any good reason to be there, they just like the buzz.
The patron saint of all disaster tourists has to be Robert Young Pelton. He is the man behind Fielding’s Guide to Dangerous Places – the bible for travel to the world’s more screwed up places. Pelton’s website is optimistically called combackalive.com and like Dangerous Places, it is packed with information to help you do just that – and to feel damn cool whilst you are there!
As well as facts and figures there are a number of stories about walking on the wild side of life. Getting Arrested gives you a few hints how to avoid spending a little more time in a country than you had intended, and has a salutary yarn about photographing planes in Mali.
The On The Ground section has stories from various frontlines around the world, including Derek Flood’s dispatches from a Maoist Insurgency in Assam in India in The Candlelight Rebellion
There is even a discsussion forum where scary sounding people with handles like mercenary1, whose signature is ”Come on you Sons of Bitches. No One Lives Forever” ask and answer badass questions.
Another site website that deals with some of the less salubrious parts of the world is Polo’s Bastards, whose strapline is “going where we ain’t supposed to!” They certainly do. This extensive collection of stories will take you from Colombia to Chechnya and from Peshawar to North Korea. The stories on this site go far deeper than travel yarns, but there is a real feeling of adventure and exploration. Spend some time here, and that package to Cancun just won’t seem so exciting!
Words & image ©stevedavey.com 2007