The Failure of Travel

For those of us who are professionally in the travel space, why isn't the fact that American, British and European young men are brutally fighting for ISIS/ISIL part of our work?

Belgium has sent more fighters to ISIS than any other European country. ISIS' military expenditures exceed those of Ireland.

And yet as travel content providers we never write about the culture and conditions that make this possible.
We talk of the "charms" of a country," the wonderful food and sunsets.  Videos of kittens on flights.

What is happening in the Middle East is our concern, as travel writers. NOT how it affects profits, or routes or ports of call. But as part of our responsibility to understand cultures and provide insights into their values and histories and help travelers understand what is going on, where and why.


Sooner or later we will be called upon to explain why we were talking about great margaritas and flight loads while countries and history were being destroyed, and we fiddled with the newest hotel somewhere in the fantasy we perceive as travel.


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Comment by Earl Hardie Karges on September 8, 2014 at 5:03pm
Comment by Max Pesling on September 2, 2014 at 11:29am

I can certainly see your point, Allan's - it can become both a proverbial hot potato rolling down slippery slope, especially because not every one has the expertise to parachute into unfamiliar contexts and cultures and be able to intelligently comment on it (even an outsider well-versed in a situation is really not ultimately not qualified - I have been visiting Catalonia for decades and know people on both sides of the independence argument, and yet I still can't opine that one or the other side is definitively right - so especially because of that I keep my mouth shut and stay out of it).  

And because so many people think of travel as an lesiure activity that they spend hard-earned money on to escape from the drudgery of their everyday existence, the last thing they want is to be forced to consider the woes of the world in forms even nastier than those they see closer to home. And editors, writers, and advertisers realize that and cater to that. 

Having said all that, the vast expansion of the travel media space in the past decade or so - especially on the Internet - has meant that readers looking for edgier travel writing can find it far more easily than they could just a few years ago. And consider even all the mainstream coverage of voluntourism, which has automatically meant covering the conditions which the volunteer activities are seeking to alleviate - poverty, social injustice, foreign domination of our industries (oops, sorry, slipped into the lyrics from "Evita" there). So I wouldn't say the picture has necessarily gotten worse.

Comment by Allan Lynch on September 1, 2014 at 10:06am

Kaleel I don't know any editors who want to get involved in geo-political issues. Hell, when I switched from business writing to travel editors told me they didn't want critical pieces. They were afraid of being sued. So gawd forbid I not like a restaurant. Several magazines had policies that if a writer didn't like the room, service or food to exclude it. It ceased to exist, find a replacement property. That's editorial policy, nothing to do with the writer.

Then there is the issue of how well versed a travel writer might in the local politics or factors behind whatever the insurrection du jour. I've heard representatives of the Pentagon whom I felt didn't understand the situation or overlooked key elements. Basic, old-fashioned style reporting, as well as research, seems lacking. And in the quest to develop a salable top five, seven or ten list about the destination or theme, little time is left for real research.

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