We are very pleased to welcome a new contributor to Geokult Travel – Linda Carroli. Since the mid 1990s, Linda and I have been good friends and have collaborated on many art and media projects. Linda is an Australian based writer and urban practitioner, who also has consulting experience across a broad range of fields – art, community development and heritage. She is internationally recognised for her writing and contribution to the arts, winning many awards. We hope you enjoy Linda’s thought-provoking writing and commentary on travel.
The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel by Linda Carroli
This is the first blog post of many I hope to share on Tracey and Marty’s Geokult Travel blog. In my posts, I will explore more unusual and unexpected aspects of travel, tourism and travel writing. This first post is a musing on The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel by Rachael Antony and Joël Henry (The Laboratory of Experimental Tourism). While the book is now nearly a decade old, having been first published in 2005, it continues to enthral and enhance a travel itinerary. In a sense the book offers ‘gamified’ travel in a way that makes for a sense of difference and play – experiencing differently or playfully. ‘Gamification’ means the application of game dynamics and processes to non-game contexts.
‘Experimental Travel’, also known as experimental tourism, is acknowledged by the authors as difficult to define. They describe it as a “playful way of travelling, where the journey’s methodology is clear but the destination may be unknown”. They suggest that the only requisite for such an approach to travel is an adventurous spirit. Discovery and exploration are multiplied by playing some of the games or following some of the simple instructions. The instructional nature of experimental is particularly interesting: the acceptance of constraints, such as directions, help redefine experiences.
The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel provides a catalogue of 40 experiments for you to try as well as details the results of experiments undertaken through the Laboratory of Experimental of Tourism.
The book includes methods drawn from the Situationists such as dérivé, as well as Dada and Surrealist style games. Psychogeography, mythogeography and flânerie are also in the mix. Imagine throwing a dice or coin to make decisions about your tourist experience and to define your travel itinerary. Have you ever considered spending 24 hours in an airport or journeying from airport to airport? Airports have been described by anthropologist Marc Augé as a ‘non-place’, an institutional environment designed to expedite transit and passenger conveyance, though strangely reminiscent of a shopping mall.
The Lonely Planet Guide is but one resource for experimental tourists, and will not placate everyone’s sense of adventure. Road Junky, for example, describes it as ‘sanitised’ and has compiled a list of 101 experimental travel ideas available online, with many of them prompting intercultural and interfaith excursions (not to mention national security concerns!), such as visiting every Muslim country in the world. Initiatives in Countertourism are attentive to the heritage tourism experience and encourage:
innovative consuming, intervention and even ‘infiltration’ to transform the way that the heritage industry and its sites are visited, looked at, experienced, conserved, managed and changed.
Technologies, such as GPS and GIS, and social media can also enhance the experience. Perhaps there’s another guide to be written about experimental travel using social media e.g. You arrive in a place and tweet asking for advice on a good place to eat, go to the first recommendation. You can continue to co-design your travel. Many of the experiments are open-ended urban incursions, they are ambulatory and constrained. If you have doubts, try it locally first. Try backpacking in your home city, or taking a line for a walk in your neighbourhood. Part of the challenge lies in figuring out how willing you are to relinquish some of the decision-making by following simple instructions and venturing into the unknown or unplanned. While some aspects of the journey are pre-figured, the route and the destination are not.
[NOTE: You are always responsible for your own safety when using experimental travel guides or practicing experimental travel. The author and publisher of this blog disclaims any responsibility for and liability for loss or injury in the event of experimental travel.]
Linda Carroli is a Brisbane-based writer and urban practitioner. Her consulting work has included studies on visitor experience, tourism infrastructure, cultural and heritage tourism, and destination management.