Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever. When adventurers crave “untouched” places and “authentic” peoples, it’s the locals who ultimately pay
Excerpt: “My name is John!” shouted John Allen Chau from his kayak in November 2018 as he paddled toward strangers on the beach of North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal. “I love you and Jesus loves you!” In response, the people on the remote Indian island strung arrows in their bows. The twenty-six-year-old American missionary and self-styled explorer had elected himself saviour of the souls of the Sentinelese, an Indigenous tribe that aggressively resists contact with the outside world. Save for sporadic visits from an anthropologist with India’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs in the 1960s to ’90s, and two Indian fishermen who were killed in 2006 for venturing too close, the Sentinelese have rarely interacted with outsiders over the past century, making them immunologically vulnerable. Unfazed by the genocidal threat his germs posed and fresh out of missionary boot camp, Chau made repeated attempts to land—ignoring arrows and Indian law—in an effort to bring the Gospel to the Sentinelese. He didn’t survive. That he’s since been celebrated online as a martyr by Christian fundamentalists is sad but not surprising. More alarming is that Chau has been recognized, in profaner circles, for his spirit of adventure.