Sky News delves into the intriguing phenomenon of billionaires’ attraction to “extreme tourism,” where the super wealthy engage in high-risk activities, often delegating the management of these risks to others. Experts suggest that this approach creates a protective “buffer” that separates them from the inherent dangers associated with such pursuits.
A recent case in point is Galactic 02, an aerospace venture departing from New Mexico. This mission will carry three passengers: an 80-year-old former Olympian coping with Parkinson’s disease, and a mother-daughter pair who secured their tickets through a sweepstake. The spacecraft, VSS Unity, stands out with its numerous windows designed for optimal weightlessness viewing. During their roughly five-minute experience of weightlessness, the passengers will soar approximately 50 miles (80 km) above Earth before returning to the comfort of Galactic’s luxurious desert lodgings.For Jon Goodwin, an octogenarian from Newcastle, this voyage will mark the realization of an 18-year wait since his initial investment of £356,000 (equivalent to $450,000). Joining him on this remarkable journey are Keisha Schahaff, 46, and her 18-year-old daughter, Anastatia Mayers. These select few will join the ranks of illustrious figures like Richard Branson and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos among the exclusive cohort of approximately 700 individuals who have ventured beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
However, this rising trend of extreme tourism has triggered a reflective inquiry into the allure of perilous environments. The tragic demise of five men aboard a submersible en route to the Titanic’s wreckage has prompted discussions about the motivations behind our attraction to such extreme experiences. The concept of the “overview effect,” described as a cognitive transformation experienced by astronauts in space, has been observed for decades.
Galactic’s visionary, Richard Branson, includes the concept of the “overview effect” in the company’s promotional efforts. He characterizes it as a transformative shift in awareness and perspective that emerges from viewing Earth from the vantage point of space. This profound experience draws attention to the immediacy of one’s surroundings, fostering an intense focus that can be remarkably addictive. This mental detachment from everyday concerns is considered rewarding, allowing any home-based chaos, stress, or discomfort to dissipate into insignificance.
Researchers have documented various psychological benefits arising from such extreme experiences. These include enhanced self-esteem, heightened sense of identity, emotional diversity, and a profound connection to the natural world. Activities ranging from heli-skiing and mountain climbing to base jumping have been noted to facilitate these transformative outcomes. As billionaires partake in these pursuits, their financial capacity seems to impact their perception of risk, enabling them to explore the boundaries of human experience while others manage the dangers that lurk within.