Words’ worth : Weird walks

Himalayan News Service

Part philosophy and part travel guide, this user-friendly, sometimes surreal but mostly tongue-in-cheek book includes practical experiments to follow, both while travelling and when at home. It doubles as a manual for the intrepid traveller and a mirthful read for the armchair adventurer. ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel’ looks at travel through a lateral filter: the guide espouses alternative ways to be a tourist (experiments), encouraging travellers to move away from previous experiences and their learned concept of travel, and to visit the world in creative, exciting and unusual ways. These experiments provide unique and innovative insights into travel and question its very essence.

What is experimental travel?

Experimental travel is a new way of thinking about travel, pioneered by Joel Henry, founder of the Laboratory of Experimental Tourism (Latourex) in Strasbourg. Applying seemingly random constraints to our travel plans, experimental travel introduces a new kind of prescriptiveness. It may involve forced exploration of the suburbs of a city rather than that of classic tourist sights, it may involve travelling without going anywhere - whatever the “experiment”, you can guarantee that it will turn the standard concept of travel on its head and give the traveller a unique and unusual experience.

About the book

The book is designed like a manual, with a tongue-in-cheek, scientific approach. Each experiment has a hypothesis, i.e. what you should achieve by doing the experiment, and method, i.e. how you do the experiment, followed by an experimental traveller’s actual experience. Introductory notes give each experiment some context - some experiments have roots in other schools of thought such as philosophy, literature, etc, others may be based on games such as Monopoly or sardines.

What experiments are in the books?

The book includes 60 practical do-it-yourself experiments:

• Airport Travel: spend 24 hours in an airport without flying anywhere. Use the facilities, watch the travellers, and get friendly (but not too friendly) with the planes.

• Budget Travel: not enough time? Not enough money? Go there anyway and experience travel when you’re really on a budget.

• Expedition to K2: open your street directory at a random page, locate the grid reference “K2” , and go there. It could be a swamp, a sewer, or a large mountain. It doesn’t matter - you have to go there anyway.

• Monopoly Travel: armed with a local version of the board game Monopoly, explore the city at the whim of the dice roll. Will it turn into a shopping spree, or a tour of the local utilities, or will you end up in jail?

(‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel’ by Joel Henry and Rachel Antony, 256 pp,

US $18)