Are tourists destroying the planet — or saving it?
Anthropologist Pegi Vail’s feature-length documentary raises urgent questions about one of the most powerful globalizing forces of our time: tourism. The film follows stories along the well-worn Western travelers’ route — the ‘gringo trail’— through South America, Africa and Asia, revealing the complex relationships between host countries hungry for financial security and the tourists who provide it in their quest for “authentic” experiences.
“Whether you’re an armchair traveler or you’re working through a bucket list of exotic destinations, it’s an important and moving film.” — Outside Magazine
“It’s a compelling but tragic story: how all over the world we’re destroying the places we love by the very plentitude of our love, how pristine beaches and verdant rain forests and even remote deserts are being overwhelmed by great swarms of backpacking tourists. Pegi Vail is a genius at coaxing out all the small stories that add up at last to her terrible heartbreaking vision: the plague of too much us.” — George Green, author & founder, The Moth
About the film
How do travelers change the remote places they visit, and how are they changed? 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 traces stories over 30 years to show the unanticipatedimpact of tourism on cultures, economies, and the environment. Directed by prominent anthropologist Pegi Vail, the Director of the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York University and a Fulbright Scholar, Gringo Trails raises urgent questions about one of the most powerful globalizing forces of our time: tourism.
Following stories along the well-worn western travelers' route-the 'gringo trail', through South America and beyond to Africa and Asia-the film reveals the complex relationships between colliding cultures: host countries hungry for financial security and the tourists who provide it in their quest for authentic experiences. As dramatically as travelers are altered by new landscapes, values and belief systems, they also alter the people and places they visit. A man getting lost inthe Amazon jungle in 1981 has had an unexpected effect on future generations. The original inhabitant of an island on the Salt Flats of Bolivia faces the dilemma of trying to preserve its ecosystem while still allowing outsiders to experience its unique magic. A traveler's search for an "unspoiled" island paradise in Thailand has unintended but devastating consequences and poses ethical quandaries for locals in a position to profit from tourism. A woman's romantic fantasies about "the unknown" meet reality in Timbuktu.
Locals worldwide express the desire for visitors to better understand how to respectfully walk on their sacred lands, including an indigenous community that has become a model for sustainable tourism in South America. Gringo Trails experts include National Geographic Traveler editor Costas Christ; Jungle author Yossi Ghinsberg; travel essayist and novelist Pico Iyer; Bolivian Chalalán Ecolodge's Freddy Limaco and Guido Mamani; Globe Trekker host Holly Morris; Lonely Planet travel writer Anja Mutic; Vagabonding author Rolf Potts; A Map for Saturday's Brook Silva-Braga; National Museum director Kempo Tashi; travel writer Ernest "Fly Brother" White; and Royal Family of Bhutan member Dasho Sangay Wangchuk.
Watch the trailer
Run time: 79 min.