This penetrating doc travels to some of the world’s top tourist destinations and exposes the dark side of all those sunny vacations.
GRINGO TRAILS is a feature-length documentary that raises urgent questions about one of the most powerful globalizing forces of our time: tourism. Spanning South America, Africa and Asia, the tourist pathway known as the “gringo trail” has facilitated both life-altering adventures and the despoiling of many once virgin environments. The film follows stories along the trail to reveal the complex relationships between colliding cultures: host countries hungry for financial security and the tourists who provide it in their quest for authentic experiences.
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves,” says best-selling travel writer Pico Iyer; “and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” We travel for escape and for encounter, to challenge our assumptions and our limits, and to expand our visions of the possible. As dramatically as travelers are altered by new landscapes, values and belief systems, they also unavoidably alter the people and places they visit.
GRINGO TRAILS first takes us on a harrowing journey with one man’s story of getting lost in the Amazon jungle in 1981 that has had an unexpected effect on future generations. We meet the original inhabitant of an island on the Salt Flats of Bolivia as he faces the dilemma of trying to preserve its ecosystem while still allowing outsiders to experience its unique magic. We see the unintended but devastating impact of a traveler’s search for an ‘unspoiled’ island paradise in Thailand and the ethical quandries of locals in a position to profit from tourism. We follow a woman’s personal transformation as her romantic fantasies about ‘the unknown’ meet reality in Timbuktu. We also meet locals worldwide as they express the desire for visitors to better understand how to respectfully walk on their sacred lands, including one indigenous community that has become a model for sustainable tourism in South America.