Wandering is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. I often pick a neighborhood I want to visit as my starting point, then twist and turn to see where I’ll end up. Sometimes I have an ultimate destination in mind, sometimes I know the general direction I want to go, and sometimes I literally just start walking and then stop walking when my feet hurt too much to continue.
Though my walks often feel rather”random,” ultimately I’m the one deciding where to go and when to change my course. A video I saw online this weekend made me think about my walks in a new light. Anthropologist Grant McCracken recently visited San Francisco and put a full day’s itinerary into the hands of Twitter users. He asked users to tweet at him with suggestions for where to go and what to do. He then spent the day following their directives. Suggestions ranged from buying gelato to posing with particular SF landmarks. Each time he stopped, he did a video interview with someone nearby. It made me wonder if instead of simply following my whims, I should try letting others pick where I go.
I wish I would have caught Grant’s announcement before he did the actual experiment- it would have been fun to tweet at him and try to influence what he did. He called his approach the “automatic anthropologist,” since others were telling him where to go and he based his interviews off those suggestions. But in some ways, doesn’t it seem like his day was likely less automatic than usual? Instead of following his own tendencies, he had to do what others told him, effectively taking him off of his personal auto-pilot.
I love this idea of spontaneity, and the concept of following others’ instructions to make your way around a city. I don’t have enough Twitter followers to pull this off quite like Grant did (he has 11.5K, I have 33), but maybe next time I travel I’ll do an “in-real-life” version by stopping from time to time and asking locals where I should go next. Perhaps I’ll even plank on a fountain! (Watch the video, you’ll see what I mean.)
Would you put your vacation’s plans in the hands of strangers?