We live in an era of mass tourism, must see sights and well-trodden itineraries, so it’s easy to get stuck on the same old tourist grind. Many travellers search for ways to make their trip a bit different, to get off-the-beaten-track and delve under the skin of a place, so we think an imaginative new approach could be in order.
Incorporating some sort of game or challenge into a trip is an age old idea, but was first coined ‘experimental tourism’ by Joël Henry in 1990, when he managed to think up enough ideas to fill up a whole book.
Mostly these ideas allow chance and serendipity to be your guides and can be used to spice up a day or two anywhere you happen to be. After all, as Kurt Vonnigurt once wrote, ‘Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.’
Track down your other half
Arriving separately in a city you must try and find your partner without any form of communication. This could also work with a close friend or family member you have travelled with before, as long as you know exactly what kind things they normally like to do. Small cities or towns are probably the best choice, unless you actually don’t want to find each other that is.
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Travel using a number, let’s say 8. For example take bus number 8, or anything containing an 8 and get off after 8 stops. You could catch a train departing at 8 minutes to 8 and get off wherever you are at 8.08. Cross 8 streets from where you get off and find whatever building is at number 8. You get the idea. Just see what you see and enjoy wherever on earth you end up.
Find a good bar to start, perhaps ask someone in the street or your hotel. Have a drink and start talking to the bartender, ask them to recommend one of their favourite bars. When you track down that establishment, do the same, and continue. A fine way to visit plenty of good places and have an unpredictable night in one.
Creatures of the night
Arrive somewhere in the evening, just as dusk is beginning to settle and the lights come on. Explore by wandering around and seeing the sights, taking advantage of any late night drinks and snacks you might find. Then just as the first few rays start to appear, leave again or go to bed, just like a vampire on tour. Some cities are arguably best seen at night anyway.
Sights without seeing
For this one you need a travelling companion you really trust, preferably someone without too much of an evil streak. Have them blindfold you before you leave in the morning and spend the day blindfolded while exploring the destination. This will allow you to focus your mind on what all your other senses take in while your mental imagery runs wild.
Get a city map with an index and plot a route from the first street on the alphabetical list to the last via the shortest or most interesting route you can find. You could modify this to start and finish at any letters, such as those at the start of your names. Maybe check the city you’re in has any particularly dangerous neighbourhoods that should be avoided first.
Fast and slow travel
First choose where you want to go and get there as quick as possible. Then on the way home travel by the slowest mode of transport you can find. For example fly into somewhere and take the slow boat back. Obviously walking would be the slowest way but it depends how much time you have on your hands.
You need four people and some dice. The person who rolls highest in the first round chooses the destination, usually within a set distance, unless you happen to be very rich. The winner of the next roll decides the date of the getaway. The third winner can choose the type of accommodation e.g. hotel, camping or luxury apartment. The unlucky last person has to pay for the whole trip.
This one can take many forms depending on how many of you there are and what kind of preparation you want to put in. Perhaps you could just spend the day seeking out everything you can that is purple and taking a selfie in front of it. Maybe you have to find as many bars with a Y in the name as possible, and have a shot in each. You could set out to try and buy something you think will be impossible to find in the city, asking shopkeepers as you go.
Have you ever incorporated a game into your travels? Or know any other novel ways to explore a city? Let us know and add them to the list.