I consider travel to be the spice of life, the salt, garlic, saffron, curry and habanero pepper of living life properly. How in the world can you live in the world without seeing the world? Life is too amazing, too diverse, too fricken weird to stick yourself in one place and never leave.
But there is a caveat to that statement. And that is that travel can be a pain in the butt. It can also – at times, occasionally, not-too-often, but it does happen – be boring. This is one of travel’s dirty secrets.
Picture this: you’re seeing your 15th cathedral of the day in France, photographed its ornate stained glass windows (pictures you’ll NEVER look at again…besides, they’re totally blurry!), you’ve tried your best to act interested in the local guide’s unintelligible riff on 16th century pre-Gothic architectural theory…and you still have three cathedrals to go…now tell me that you’re not bored out of your mind!
Is there a solution? Sure, don’t go to France. Ha ha! Just kidding. But seriously folks. A new book out by the folks at Lonely Planet want you to consider a new concept: Experimental Travel. What is ET, besides a big-headed alien with a glowing distal phalange (fingertip)…well, ET is a way of heading out in the world and trying to make it a bit more interesting through thoughtful little strategies and games (for lack of a better word) that both keep you entertained and educate you about where you are.
Does that make sense? The concept is the brainchild of Joel Henry, the French founder of the Laboratory of Experimental Tourism (Latourex).
Here’s an example for digital shutterbugs: It’s an activity called Countertourism. The idea is that (per my comment above) we all take endless photos of landmarks we visit. Most often these pictures are flat, dull and of significantly poorer quality than a postcard. Worse, chances are we will never look at them again. But what if the idea was you had to turn your back to the monument you are visiting, and could only take pictures of what you saw then? That’s a pretty neat idea I think. I’ll bet you’d not only find the effort fun at the time, but your pictures would be wildly more original. But maybe not. Maybe you suck as a photographer.
Anyway, I have the book, courtesy of the folks at Lonely Planet and I quite like the concept. On my next trip I am sure I will take some of these ideas and try to make them work. You should too.