On these new trips, getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere is part of the plan
Beach vacations are not as relaxing as they used to be. Once an ideal respite for getting lost in a book or absorbing the impossible quiet under water, the accessibility and free resort Wi-Fi make checking email irresistible and unplugging near impossible.
Luxury travel operator Black Tomato is launching a program called Get Lost on Thursday. The service will, in part, combat the experience of being “on” when you’re scheduled to be doing the opposite. Black Tomato will create individualized experiences for travelers willing to loosen the reins of control and embrace the unknown: Customers might be blindfolded and flown via helicopter to an unidentified location to enjoy the thrill of completely unchartered territory.
“What constitutes relaxation has changed,” Black Tomato cofounder Tom Marchant said in an interview. “Conventionally, you’d imagine lying on a beach, and that is wonderful. But what we know from our customers is that you lie on the beach alone with your thoughts and your phone, and so you’re not actually relaxing. Mentally, you’re still turned on if you get cell reception.”
So rarely do we have the opportunity to veritably get lost: Technology like Google Maps is a saving grace and TripAdvisor makes it easy to ensure you’re booking the finest walking tour of them all, but the tools for seamless curation compromise the childlike wonder that comes with seeing something for the first time. “What we found is that truly distracting someone, making them focus on where they are, constitutes genuine relaxation,” Marchant said.
How it works
It all starts with a phone consultation with the experts at Black Tomato to make sure a Get Lost venture is the right fit and to discuss what kind of expedition makes the most sense. Customers can decide to forgo making any decisions and have their trip be a complete surprise based on their availability, or they can choose to give their preference based on the environment — polar, desert, mountain or jungle.
In a mock consultation, Black Tomato head of operations Rob Murray-John said it’s important to decipher where the client falls on what the company calls the Get Lost scale. “The level one scenario is someone who is not necessarily GI Jane or has climbed Everest, but is an everyday person who wants to challenge themselves,” Murray-John said, explaining it’s this type of traveler who often gets the most out of the experience.
When speaking to potential Get Lost-ers, Murray-John said there are a few red flags. “It speaks volumes when someone wants to bring their laptop or asks about charging their devices,” he said, adding that it’s “highly unlikely” the places clients are sent to will even offer reception.
A desire to hike while carrying your own gear, cooking in tents and foraging for food is also a prerequisite for interested participants. This venture is partly about being in the wilderness, Murray-John said. “It’s very much them on their own, getting food, fire, water, shelter. Just surviving is enough activity in itself.”
On the other side of the spectrum, a level 10 client might be “an ex-Army guy who has the background and the skillset, with the ability to be completely lost both mentally and physically,” he said. Murray-John said it’s crucial he and his team understand their clients’ experience, physical fitness and expectations before sending them off on a trip.
Once a skeleton itinerary is developed, a fully committed client is charged an upfront fee of 1,000 pounds (approximately $1,339 USD) that will be applied to the experience’s final fee. The trips might be anywhere in the world, from a remote mountainous range in northern Canada to an ice cave crusade in Iceland to a kangaroo-filled jungle in Papua New Guinea.
Getting lost with Black Tomato isn’t a cheap thrill: Murray-John said trips can typically range from $20,000 to $30,000 per person, depending on the type of adventure and the length of the trip. “The more lost you want to get, the more expensive [the trip] becomes,” Murray-John said.
Our ancestors might laugh at this. But according to the folks who developed Get Lost, the reward a traveler gets from completing this one-of-a-kind experience is priceless.