The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel

If you are looking for tutorial activities or between-classes projects for students, or if you just fancy have a little Geography adventure of your own, you could do much worse than consider one of the experimental travel games in The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel (Rachael Anthony and Joel Henry, 2005). The book defines experimental travel as a playful way of travelling, where the journey’s methodology is clear but the destination may be unknown. At its simplest an experimental travel game could involve turning left at the first junction, right at the second, left at the third, and so on, and seeing where you end up after an hour’s walk, or ride, or drive. The rules are simple and fixed, but where you end up and what you might encounter en route can provide adventure and surprise. This book develops that simple idea to a much greater level of sophistication, and provides detailed case study reports from intrepid travellers who have developed and played these games, supported by an academic context for those readers who want to find out more about their psychogeographical and other underpinnings. For most readers, though, the core of the book will be the different games and adventures that are put before us either to read about or to try for ourselves.

ExperimentalTravelThe book runs to 40 “experiments” that you can try for yourself or modify into something that suits you better. They range from adventures that might take up no more than a coffee-break (ideal tutorial activities!) to voyages of more epic proportions that could be developed into major, long-term expeditions. For example, you might let a friend’s dog take you for a walk, allowing it to take the lead, probably taking you along its (your friend’s) usual route, which may be new territory for you. You might get on the next form of transport that you see, buy a ticket to “the end of the line”, and spend 24 hours at that destination whether it be the distant edge of the continent or the outskirts of your own home town. You could conduct an armchair voyage around the world by reading the first book from your shelf until it mentions a foreign country, then choose a new book somehow related to that country. Read that one until a new country is mentioned, then switch to a new book about that country. Continue until you return, in a literary sense, to your country of embarkation. You could navigate your home town following directions (from the town square head north one block) that are taken from the guidebook to a different town, and see where you end up. For each of the experiments in the book there are instructions, case histories, and in some cases even props and resources to help you. By the time you have tried a few, or even just read about them, others of your own, or your students’, invention will surely start to spring to mind.

As the book makes clear, all that is required is an adventurous spirit and the only limits to your adventures will be your own imagination. Me, I’m heading off now to the nearest street beginning with the letter A, then I’ll be looking for the nearest B. I expect to visit parts of town I’ve never seen before, and I won’t be going just where somebody else’s guide book is sending me. This will be my own adventure. Actually, I might let the students do that one in teams as an icebreaker for the new academic year.

Unfortunately the book doesn’t seem terribly easy to come by. A quick check online showed it available mainly 2nd-hand or at extortionate prices as new. If you can get hold of one I heartily recommend it, and if you already have one lurking on your shelf I strongly recommend you get it down, dust it off, and pick an adventure!

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