Counter-Tourism and The Art of Wandering

The works of two fellow travelers deserve a shout-out here.

Firstly ‘Counter-Tourismby Crab Man aka Phil Smith. I haven’t read the book yet,  because it’s probably brilliant and I’m writing my own book at the moment and I don’t want to be unduly influenced by Smith’s usually creative slant on the re-imagining of ‘traditional’ heritage locations and the standard notion of sight-seeing.

When I was working on the Remapping High Wycombe project I read his brilliant essay ‘Dread, Route and Time: An Autobiographical Walking of Everything Else’, and ended up somehow mangling and misremembering his cogent notions as ‘autotopobiography’ (follow the tag at the bottom).

But an alternative to the often useless Rough Guides and Lonely Planets is long overdue – why buy a guide to each country and city when you could just buy the Counter-Tourism Handbook and use it everywhere you go.

If you want to read deeper into the broader culture that Smith and other cultural walkers inhabit then Merlin Coverley’s The Art of Wandering – the writer as walker’ is a must read. This is another long overdue book, Coverley having written two other key publications on a similar theme with his Pocket Essentials on ‘Psychogeography’ and ‘Occult London’.

The book takes us on a ramble from the Walker as Philosopher through to the Experimental Walking practised by Smith and his cohorts in Wrights and Sights, charting the excursions of the Dadaists, Surrealists and Situationists.
It not only covers the visionary walking of William Blake and Werner Herzog, the Walker as Philosopher, Pilgrim and Vagrant; but also links James Bone’s The London Perambulator (1925) to my old walking companion Nick Papadimitriou through the title of the film about him that I borrowed from the book (we’re going out for a walk on Saturday – you can read about it next year).

There’s an interesting section on a book by Jeff Nicholson, ‘Bleeding London’  from 1997 where the central character secretly carries out one of my fantasies – to walk every street in London, chalking each one off in the index of an A-Z as he goes.

london

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