Albert Dadas

Nobody had heard from Albert Dadas for over a year. He had disappeared without saying goodbye to any of his friends or colleagues, without leaving any letter of explanation, without even informing his family. Dadas was 26 years old and worked in a gas works in Bordeaux. The demand for gas was high. The town’s streets had gradually been equipped with gas lamps, and modern gas ovens and gas central heating which were becoming all the more common contributed to this. The gas was produced from coal. The work was arduous with a few short and silent breaks, which only allowed for the mechanical consumption of the contents of a lunch box. One day in 1886 he did not turn up for work.

Towards the end of July 1887 a young psychology student discovered Albert Dadas crying in his bed in Dr. Pitres ward in the Sankt André hospital in Bordeaux. The young student, by the name of Phillip Tissié took the time to listen to him. Dadas explained that he had recently returned from a long journey and although he was exhausted, this was not the reason for his tears. He wept because he could not prevent himself from leaving when the urge to travel arose. He would abandon everything he had and leave immediately. It would usually begin with him, in the middle of his daily routine, hearing of some remote place and suddenly setting off walking, with only the money he had in his pocket, towards that destination. Whether on the open road or in the mountains Dadas always managed to loose all his personal identification documents. He had lost his marriage certificate and military discharge certificate. He walked until arrested for vagrancy. He had rambled over large parts of southern France but remembered nothing of his ramblings.

Phillip Tissié took an interest in the gas worker and the state of his health. Through hypnosis he was able to get Dadas to recount details of his journeys. Phillip Tissié described Dadas (the first pathological tourist) with the following distinguishing features: He was working class, neither homeless nor part of the expanding middle classes. He had whole and clean cloths, was moderate with alcohol and shy amongst women. After completing his doctorate Tissié based a brilliant carrier on Dadas and his travels, his paper was read by many and became a recognised phenomenon, with accounts from Paris, northern Italy and Germany of others suffering from pathological tourism.

Although, for the remainder of his life, Dadas had long periods of normality he was never entirely free from his infliction. When he heard of a far away mountainous region he was forced to once again set off on a journey. An exhausted Dadas was arrested for vagrancy in Constantinople and Algeria and in Moscow, where having been suspected of being a revolutionary, was sent to Siberia.

By 1910 there remained little interest for the condition within psychiatry.