Writing is a way of knowing, a method of inquiry (Richardson, 2000). Consequently, writing personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences (KIESINGER, 2002; POULOS, 2008) – Ellis et al, 2011, ‘AutoEthnography: An Overview’
When asked to start thinking about a research topic for the individual project, the first thing that popped into my head was travel, I can’t shake the nostalgic feeling for the excitement I feel in discovering the new and unfamiliar when visiting someplace new. My parents have helped instil within me a need to take any opportunity to explore and venture out into the world. Most of my most precious moments derive from the travels with my family, I feel lucky enough to have travelled all over Australia and abroad, including North America, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Japan. Raised with a taste for adventure, it was expected that I planned to explore solo, the idea of it was extremely appealing and so I made the decision to move to the United Kingdom when I was 18. My style of travelling has definitely been influenced by the trips I have taken with my parents and two sisters; my parents often took us off the beaten track, straying from the typical tourist attractions and any resort in sight. Significant memories stick out from a holiday we took in Vanuatu when I was about 12 years old, I can remember so vividly the rocky, squishy 4-hour ride from the airport to our accommodation in the early hours of the morning, and sleeping on the beach, cocooned in Dads surf kite for extra comfort waiting for the owner to wake and give us the key to our tiny beach house. My parents soon became good mates with the owners of the accommodation and were kind enough to show us some golden spots around the island and tips on where to find the best Fijian cuisine and local fresh food markets; We had them to thank for finding the ‘sam man’ who sold homemade samosas and sold them for next to nothing and dam they still remain the best samosas I have ever tasted. My sisters and I built connections with some kids from a nearby local village, they often turned up on our doorstep asking if we wanted to join them in a game of soccer or shoot hoops in the basketball ring attached to the side of our beach house. As I look back on these types of authentic and genuine experiences and connections, I feel in turn I have a deeper appreciation for the country and understanding of its core cultural values, rather than a fabricated or altered version to please stereotyped expectations. I believe that to travel to a new place, you must dive head first into the culture to claim you’ve experienced the real essence of a place; socialise with the locals, live amongst them, eat something you normally wouldn’t, take a wrong turn, shop at a local market where no one speaks English and try something that makes you nervous or confused. This leads me to the topic of choice for the individual research task; Dark tourism.
My understanding of dark tourism is it is a form of travel where one explores the unordinary, weird attractions of a country, a theme I generally follow whilst on holiday. I heard of the term ‘dark tourism’ for the first time this year on a triple j interview with journalist David Farrier who wrote the newest Netflix docuseries Dark Tourist. David travels to various locations around the globe and visits offbeat destinations and experiences focused on the “mad, macabre and morbid” (David Farrier, Dark Tourist, Episode 1). Dark tourism has been dubbed a rising phenomenon and one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism market and I’m interested to find out why it’s on the rise, specifically investigating the forms of dark tourism in Asian cultures such as Japan, Cambodia, India and South Korea.
As I cannot first hand engage with dark tourism in the countries listed above (as much as I would love to jump on a plane and take a quick holiday), I plan on personally engaging with dark tourism by watching docos such as Dark Tourist and Body Hack, simultaneously filming my reactions to both of these programs. I also plan on simulating some of the dark tourist activities, anything accessible and possible here at home, recording my dark endeavours and reflecting on these experiences in an online journal. Alongside the personal experience, I will layer on data, abstract analysis and relevant literature to complete a well-rounded research process (Ellis, C 2011) – leave no stone unturned!
So, wish me a dark journey ahead!