“Gringo Trails” – Planetary Salvation or Destruction?

“Gringo Trails” – Planetary Salvation or Destruction?

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“Are tourists destroying the planet–or saving it?”

Gringo Trails PosterThat’s the opening line of the Website for the documentary film, Gringo Trails.

And here’s what the film is all about:

“How do travelers change the remote places they visit, and how are they changed? GRINGO TRAILS, a new documentary film, offers answers—some heartbreaking, some hopeful. From the Bolivian jungle to the party beaches of Thailand, and from the deserts of Timbuktu, Mali to the breathtaking beauty of Bhutan, GRINGO TRAILS shows the dramatic long-term impact of tourism on cultures, economies, and the environment, tracing some stories over 30 years. Backpackers and local inhabitants tell startling stories of transformation, for good and ill.”

What exactly are “Gringo Trails” and why did the movie’s producers  follow it?

They explain that:

“The film follows stories along the well-worn western travelers’ route – the ‘gringo trail’, through South America and beyond to Africa and Asia, revealing the complex relationships between colliding cultures: host countries hungry for financial security and the tourists who provide it in their quest for authentic experiences.”

The “storytellers” in this documentary include:

  • Freddy Limaco and Guido Mamani of Bolivia’s Chalalán Ecolodge
  • Dasho Sangay Wangchuk, Member, Royal Family of Bhutan and National Museum director Kempo Tashi
  • National Geographic Traveler Editor at Large Costas Christ
  • Jungle author Yossi Ghinsberg
  • Travel essayist and novelist Pico Iyer
  • Globe Trekker host Holly Morris
  • Lonely Planet travel writer Anja Mutic
  • Vagabonding author Rolf Potts
  • Map for Saturday‘s Brook Silva-Braga, and
  • Ernest White a/k/a Fly Brother

Watch the movie’s trailer, then decide whether tourists bring salvation or destruction.


So what do I think of Gringo Trails?

Not much.

But that’s only because like you, I haven’t seen the entire documentary, just the trailer.

The documentary has been shown at a couple of film festivals, but not at the Mill Valley Film Festival which takes place annually just a a hop, skip and jump up the “tourist trail” from San Francisco and down the road from my home.

However, the reviews have been good, particularly this one for Gadling by Seattle-based travel writer Pam Mandel.

Gringo Trails has been picked up by a film distributor for distribution in North American so, with a little luck, maybe it will play in a theater near you sometime in the coming year.

In the meantime, you can read this interview by Rolf Potts of the film’s director, Pegi Vail, on Rolf’s Website, Vagabonding.

And when you travel, remember these words from Chief Seattle, set forth in travel writer Gary Arndt’s “The Ultimate List of Inspirational Travel Quotes”: “Take only memories, leave only footprints.”

(Earlier this month, Pam Mandel interviewed Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, author of the new book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything. Rolf Potts was a recent guest on a “This Week in Travel” Google+ Hangout on Air and audio podcast episode hosted by Gary Arndt and Jen Leo. Rolf’s book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, is available in paperback, Kindle e-book version, and now as an Audible audio book, from Amazon.com. He is also the author of Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, briefly reviewed on Tales Told From The Road, and also available from Amazon.com. Commissions paid by Amazon.com on purchases made through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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