Experimental Travel

Saturday, June 4th, 2005

From Michael Quinion’s ever-fascinating World Wide Words newsletter:

Experimental Travel
The phrase is in the news because Lonely Planet yesterday published
its Guide to Experimental Travel. One author is Joel Henry, a 48-
year-old television scriptwriter from Strasbourg who is said to
have created the idea in 1990 (though the term is more recent).
It’s also called “experimental tourism”. As a surreal alternative
to the standard trudge round tourist venues, he suggests that you
should “challenge your perceptions of a city and increase your
receptiveness as a tourist” by trying alternative ways of seeing.
Alphatourism, for example: identify the first and last streets in
the A-Z, draw a line between the two and follow the route on foot
(a variation might be to draw a random shape, superimpose it on a
street plan and follow the route it marks out). Or aerotourism:
spend a day in an airport enjoying its facilities without going
anywhere. Or nyctalotourism: go to a foreign city at twilight, look
around all night and leave just before dawn. Or cecitourism: let a
trusted friend or partner walk you blindfolded round a place,
describing the sights. If all these are too mundane, you might try
“horse’s head tourism”: don a horse’s head costume and walk around
to experience the way that people react to you.

* From the Independent, 9 Feb. 2005: About 20 miles further on, I
drive past Bodiam Castle, a 14th-century fortification. This, of
course, is a conventional tourist attraction, but experimental
tourists are permitted to visit such places, as long as they
indulge in contretourism. This involves turning your back on the
monument in question and taking a photograph of the view in the
opposite direction.

* From the Observer, 22 May 2005: “You see,” he says. “That is the
thing about doing experimental tourism, it gives you a special
feeling. It makes you into a person you are not.” I think about
this but I don’t think I’m sure enough of the person I am to know
that I’m not the person I’m not. But then, this is precisely the
kind of topsy-turvy conundrum that experimental tourism throws up
the whole time.

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