An interesting discussion emerged on Twitter yesterday among a few friends about traveling to destinations with a “dark side.”
Last December I was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and wrote a post entitled “Is the UAE the most depressing place in the world?” On the surface the UAE seems awesome — it has the biggest and best of everything. But as I posted there, it has a dark side. A really, really dark side, of near slave labor. And that was just based on my observations, which are nowhere close to the worst of it (I was visiting luxury hotels and malls, and not construction zones). If you really want to feel horrible, check out this 2009 article from The Independent about Dubai. It’s long, but easily one of the most fascinating articles I’ve ever read.
And I think this raises an interesting question — to which degree will you overlook the “dark side” of a destination when deciding where to vacation?
I’m torn on this one. On one hand I feel like I should boycott certain destinations on principle. Even if the above article isn’t 100% accurate, the reality is that in the UAE (for example), freedoms are greatly restricted, and the “imported” labor they have there is the closest thing to modern day slavery.
At the same thing I think a large part of travel is learning about other cultures and being thankful for what you have. Going to the UAE was eye opening for me. It showed me a completely different way of life than I’ve seen anywhere else, and at the same time made me so thankful for the life I have.
So I’d love to hear what you guys think. Does it bother you if you vacation somewhere that you know has a serious “dark side,” whatever it might be? If so, does it prevent you from going, or do you still go in hopes of learning something from the experience?
Personally I’m somewhat leaning towards the latter category. I feel like it’s worth seeing just about everything at least once, but it’s not worth supporting the destinations beyond that if they have a “dark side” that you have a hard time stomaching.
Would love to hear what you guys think. Wasn’t meaning to pick on the UAE, but it’s just an example that’s fresh in my head given that I visited a few months ago.