By U.S. Navy photo by PH1(SW) ARLO K. ABRAHAMSON [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
War tourism? Is there such a thing?
You’d probably be asking these questions upon hearing the phrase “war tourism.” However, it does exist. There is a niche of recreational travel that focuses on war zones as the preferred destinations. It could be war zone areas of the past or present. People who engage in war tourism, referred to as war tourists, do it for superficial voyeurism or the inexplicable pleasure derived from being at the site of mayhem and violent conflict.
War tourism, however, is not yet a formally established travel niche. It is still a subject of debate. Nevertheless, journalists do recognize its existence so the use of the phrase “war tourism” and “war tourists” is not uncommon in print and online media.
What can be considered as a more established related type of travel is the short-term travel for learning opportunities in conflict regions. While war tourism is mostly about the voyeurism, this type of travel is centered on learning opportunities. If you are interested, there are many organizations and institutions that can help in traveling to conflict areas for the chance to experience and gain first-hand knowledge about the people and lives affected by conflicts.
The following are some of the organizations you should consider contacting if you want to pursue a learning-based travel opportunity to areas affected by political and military conflict:
1. Witness for Peace
Don’t think that the organization’s name is being ironic. It is simply a statement of the organization’s goal. This independent, apolitical, and nationwide (United States) group was created to promote nonviolence as enabled by faith and conscience. It seeks to foster peace, justice, and sustainable economies.
Witness for Peace offers opportunities for life-changing trips to different locations in Latin America including Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Colombia, and Honduras. The trips are expected to provide considerable insights that can help promote awareness on poverty and oppression in many areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.
2. International Peace Parks Expedition (IPPE)
IPPE offers experiential learning opportunities through trips to peace parks. It aims to promote an interdisciplinary approach to leadership and collaborative efforts in achieving peace. Likewise, it aims to create a network devoted to the advancement of peace parks. It also seeks to support community participation in local development.
IPPE offers accredited academic expeditions to a number of destinations. In 2013, it teamed up with the University of Maryland Adventure Program for an expedition to remote areas in Panama and Costa Rica. In 2014, the group will provide a 7-credit filed course in Washington DC and the Balkans. This will be from May 11 to June 2.
By Bullshark44 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Global Exchange Reality Tours
Reality Tours is a project of Global Exchange, an international human rights group created to promote social, economic, and environmental justice. These tours offer opportunities for “meaningful and socially-responsible travel” (as the official website puts it) to a number of destinations. Reality Tours help connect people to the real human lives and places affected by conflict and other similar problems.
The main goals of Reality Tours are education about global problems and empowerment, to help promote positive change at the local and international levels. Over a hundred delegations are accommodated by the project every year. There are more than 40 destinations being considered to provide a clear and real picture of contemporary issues of political, cultural, environmental, and economic nature.
4. Political Tours
As the name suggests, Political Tours is a company that provides opportunities for those who want to travel to witness or experience real settings of political and current affairs issues. The company offers group tours and tailor-made trips to various destinations worldwide. Political Tours is an apolitical organization that emphasizes a grassroots level of understanding of political and current affairs problems.
The company, so far, has been offering tours to a number of destinations in Turkey, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Georgia, Kosovo, Ethiopia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea.
5. Global Youth Connect
This organization was founded in 1999 by youth leaders hailing from the United States and a number of post-genocide countries including Guatemala and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It aims to advance human rights by providing young activists from different parts of the world with opportunities to meet, share ideas, and collaboratively take action. Moreover, Global Youth Connect has annual winter and summer delegations to Bosnia and Rwanda. Global Youth Connect mostly accommodates people who are 14 to 35 years old.
By www.avivi.org (http://www.flickr.com/photos/avivi/6118460563) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You don’t necessarily have to avoid conflict areas to learn and have a great travel experience. With the help of the organizations mentioned above, you can go to a number of destinations for a meaningful trip. Just be sure to take note of the travel reminders we mentioned in an earlier post.