Dylan Harris sends adventurous travelers inside 'pariah' nations
North Korea and Iran are among the destinations for Lupine Travel, which offers a first-hand view of countries most of the world shuns.
If Dylan Harris isn't careful, he might find himself accused of taking a club to Western efforts to rein in countries considered international pariahs.Skip to next paragraph
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Almost one year after the successful inaugural DPRK (North Korean) Amateur Golf Open tournament, which he conceived and organized, the Wigan, England, adventure travel specialist is busying putting the finishing touches on a near-identical event in Iran.
According to Mr. Harris, the Iranian Amateur Golf Open 2012, set for April 20-22, will form one of the first international sporting events the Middle Eastern country has ever hosted – at a time when it is under intense international pressure over an alleged nuclear weapons program, which has raised the threat of Western military strikes.
But while Harris admits he has had to fight claims that he should not be engaging with states once branded by former US President George W. Bush as part of "an axis of evil," he sees the tournaments more as a vehicle that might help steer people away from stereotypical observations and challenge them to view such countries from a different angle.
For Harris, dealing with – from a Western point of view – out-of-favor or discredited regimes comes easily. His tour company, Lupine Travel, specializes in offbeat locations that already include general trips to North Korea and Iran as well as countries the likes of long-isolated Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic.
"During my time traveling during my 20s, I always found the usual tourist spots quite boring, and I tended to seek out more off-the-beaten-track destinations, which I found offered a much more rewarding travel experience," Harris explains. "Iran and North Korea especially gave experiences which were completely at odds with the ones I originally expected after years of reading negative reports in the press about them both.
"I just hope to help change people's opinions of these countries. People will see footage of the British Embassy being attacked in Iran and think this is a representation of all Iranians. But this couldn't be further from the truth. This is just the same as, for example, Iranians watching TV footage of an EDL [English Defense League] march in Britain against Muslims. It's a tiny minority. The reality of the place is nothing like the images you see on the news. The hospitality you receive in Iran is like nowhere else, the people have an incredible warmth and love to meet Westerners."