Purposely lost… left in the wilderness to find your own way out

If your idea of a great time is being cast adrift in a random and remote location having to escape back to reality yourself, then masochists rejoice, there’s a travel company dedicated to helping you enjoy that particular type of discomfort… at a cost. Writes Lara Picone.

Imagine finding yourself in a polar wilderness with nothing but ice-scapes all around you. You now have to find your way to some semblance of civilisation. It may take you a week of frozen, glacial trekking, surviving sub-zero temperatures and extreme isolation.

Then imagine you asked for this. Imagine you actually paid someone to drop you in a location of remote, all-consuming discomfort, entirely offline from your regular, familiar, probably largely beige existence.

If you were nodding excitedly to all the above, then you’re just the candidate for travel company Black Tomato’s new Get Lost experience, whereby you’re cut adrift from the umbilical cord of modern life with all its connectivity, activity and banality and plonked into a situation of extraordinary adventure.

Increasingly, we’re looking for more from our travel experiences. No more are we satisfied just to spend a few weeks by a beach returning with some holiday snaps and dust collectors. We’re now looking for a more profound, life-altering holiday. An almost Total Recall-style escape, only we remain in the physical world (for now, although immersive virtual travel is surely just a few years away).

Co-founder of Black Tomato, Tom Marchant describes this type of extreme experiential travel as creating an emphasis on ‘earned experiences’. He sees his company as offering a way to disconnect with modernity and reconnect with the raw environment. “In our increasingly fast-paced and hyper-connected world we felt the need to offer our travellers the chance to really switch off and truly immerse themselves in the remote, hard-to-find regions they’re travelling in.”

Marchant goes on to say that “even when on vacation we are still connected to our lives back home in some way – we wanted to take the notion of a digital detox one step further, and for people to feel what it’s like to be a pioneering explorer earning their experience and being challenged.”

Challenged they are. Get Lost clients can choose to have control so far as selecting the wilderness environment that appeals to their sense of adventure – polar, desert, jungle, mountain or coastal – or they can be (pleasantly?) surprised, not finding out their destination until they touch down. In Mongolia, for example.

So how cast adrift are you, really? Surely questions of safety and insurance come into play? Well, although you may feel totally alone under the canopy of a lush jungle, you have a GPS and equipment for emergency calls.

You’re also monitored by a local expedition operations team lurking relatively nearby but well out-of-sight, so the feeling of all-absorbing loneliness is slightly cushioned by this comforting knowledge. Once you land in your environment, you’re given any necessary training to empower you to find your way back. Depending on where you are, this may be anything from shelter building to riding Mongolian horses or rafting safety.

Considering this all sounds more like a military operation than a holiday, getting lost clearly doesn’t come cheap. Unless you have a cool $25,000-$30,000USD up your sleeve (this is a base figure as every adventure is different, but does include training and technical equipment, domestic travel and accommodation, and most meals), you probably need to stick to the beach holiday or getting lost in your own backyard.

However, Marchant says there was a burning need for this type of travel among his clients before Black Tomato launched Get Lost. “Travellers put their trust in us to pick a location, curate a journey and send them to an incredible and rarely explored part of the world, and then ask them to explore their way out of it,” he explains.

Who are these people willing to pay for the privilege of feeling utterly out of their depth? Marchant says there are, of course, the expected high net-worth individuals, but also groups of friends or colleagues, and most surprisingly, a few honeymooners. What better way to put the longevity of your marriage to the test than with an extreme version of finding your way out of IKEA unscathed?

So, if you do happen to be looking for a more soul-revealing holiday, one that gives you heart palpitations and comes with a side of potential danger, you now have an alternative to an ayahuasca retreat, one that is more likely to fortify your mind than break it. And, who knows, you may even meet your spirit animal out there.