Mystery trips: Why the jet set are now paying to go ‘anywhere’

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In The Unbiased’s new journey tendencies column, Trendwatch, we dig into the varieties of journey, modes of transport and high buzzwords to be careful for.

After I heard in regards to the “thriller journeys” pattern, my first thought was: certainly that is the polar reverse of a bucket listing?

Removed from methodically ticking off locations they’ve been dreaming of going – the standard manner many people have at all times chosen our holidays – some travellers at the moment are throwing warning to the wind and paying to go, properly, anyplace.

This quirky journey pattern sees individuals join a vacation, normally specifying how lengthy, energetic, costly or far-flung they need it to be – however then depart the tour operator in whole management of the whole lot else, from vacation spot to variety of stops and each day actions.

Final week, Norwegian specialist Up Norway introduced that it’s now promoting thriller journeys to the nation. Though – shock! – all journeys are to Norway, and clients select how lengthy they’ll be there for, they solely discover out which areas, motels and sights they’ll see once they arrive.

It’s browsing a wave that first crested 4 years in the past, as bespoke tour corporations appeared for tactics to tempt clients with distinctive “shock and delight” ways.


Individuals join a vacation, normally specifying how lengthy, energetic, costly or far-flung they need it to be – however then depart the tour operator in whole management of the whole lot else

Wix Squared launched bundle journeys to thriller areas in 2018, whereas Make My Day launched thriller metropolis excursions in 2019.

In the course of the pandemic, when worldwide journey was typically forbidden, Qantas launched thriller flights to Aussie locations. Since then, start-ups comparable to honeymoons specialist Blind Experiences, “journey matchmakers” Journee, and US-based Pack Up & Go have unveiled comparable ideas.

Sprs.me – which presents thriller metropolis breaks departing from six UK airports and one Irish one – has seen demand steadily growing, with suprise break spend up 14 per cent in March 2022 from March 2019.

Nonetheless, it seems that Up Norway’s curiosity within the thriller tour is extra rooted in its homeland than you’d assume.

Up Norway’s thriller excursions would possibly embrace fjord snowboarding within the Sunnmore Alps

(Håvard Myklebust)

“In Norway we’ve lengthy had an idea referred to as blåtur, which means ‘into the blue’. It’s typically a visit which is organised by a pal or a member of the family, and most of the people going don’t know the place they’re going or what they’ll be doing,” says founder Torunn Tronsvang.

Corporations routinely ship their workers off on a blåtur jaunt to bond, with none of them having any thought the place they’re going.

With this custom in thoughts, earlier than launching fully shock itineraries, Up Norway had dabbled in shorter-span thriller days and excursions inside its journeys, comparable to foodie days out.

Then the previous two years occurred. Within the wake of Covid, Tronsvang says, she has observed a brand new wave of shoppers throwing their palms up and saying “Shock me.”

“Persons are sick of planning and failing, and planning once more,” she suggests. “The function of the journey agent appears to be again in vogue. Individuals need a trusted particular person to offer them the very best suggestions, the very best recommendation. Now greater than ever, they’re prepared at hand over the ability.”

The founding father of surprise-trip pioneer Wix Squared, Alex Wix, agrees. Removed from being off-putting, the ‘anyplace’ issue is immediately an actual draw.


Persons are sick of planning and failing, and planning once more. The function of the journey agent appears to be again in vogue

Torunn Tronsvang

“Individuals simply need to go someplace – they’ve acquired fed up with not with the ability to fly,” she says. “Beforehand individuals would say, ‘I need to go right here on vacation’ – now individuals more and more say, ‘The place can I am going that’s straightforward?’”

Previous to launching her firm’s thriller excursions to unique areas comparable to Morocco and Sri Lanka, she had a background as a vacation spot knowledgeable at a number of journey corporations.

“I’ve at all times preferred to place a little bit shock into itineraries. If a shopper was into birdwatching, we would put a little bit pair of binoculars into the room, or throw in a birdwatching tour. So why not go a step additional?” she says.

She has perfected the artwork of getting somebody’s tastes down earlier than reserving their tour itinerary.

“I had some shoppers who didn’t need to know the place they have been going in any respect. I’d do type of quickfire questions – espresso or tea, cats or canine? – to get a way of what they’d like.”

In essentially the most excessive instances, the holidaymaker solely finds out on the airport the place their aircraft is headed. The shock issue could be amped up or dialled down as a lot because the buyer desires.

On Wix Squared’s thriller Morocco excursions, travellers discover out daily what they’re doing

(Getty Photographs)

“In some instances it’s daily – or actually hour by hour,” Alex explains. “Exterior your resort room you would possibly discover a picnic basket saying ‘Take this with you’, then be met by a driver to whisk them off someplace, with no thought the place you’re doing later that afternoon.”

In fact, she says, individuals can request as a lot down-time as they like – there’s nothing to stop thriller travellers having a day by the pool right here and there.

There’s additionally an elevated pleasure aspect to a thriller journey. Begin-up Blind Experiences, based by Chiara Mascarucci, Andrea Lazzarini Viti and Fabio Prestijacopo, talks about an “pleasure curve” main as much as its journeys.

Their idea is that round 1 / 4 of the best way via a vacation, we begin fascinated by the prospect of going house once more, and the thrill curve begins to dip. But when there are nonetheless surprises to be uncovered throughout the journey, the curve continues going upwards.


Beforehand individuals would say, ‘I need to go right here on vacation’ – now individuals more and more say, ‘The place can I am going that’s straightforward?’

Alex Wix

Partly influenced by a psychology guide referred to as Shock: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Surprising by Tania Luna, the corporate retains the curve heading upwards by giving travellers a sequence of envelopes to be opened on particular dates, properly into the journey.

“There has at all times been some stage of thriller concerned in journey, irrespective of how properly deliberate a visit is – it’s typically the unknown that provides to the thrill of all of it,” says Anneke Nijenhuis, who holds the wonderful title of chief shock officer at Srprs.me.

“For some, it’s not simply the night restaurant they need to depart to likelihood – full-on thriller is required to essentially shake off the on a regular basis and discover a brand new vacation spot – and for others small doses of spontaneity are greatest.”

For thriller journeys to work, each Tronsvang and Wix say the best location is important.

Norway fits a thriller tour, says Tronsvang, as a result of it’s perceived as extremely secure, but in addition innately mysterious. On the World Financial Discussion board’s Journey & Tourism Competitiveness Index, Norway usually ranks pretty low – in 2019 it was at quantity 20, beneath New Zealand and South Korea and properly beneath higher recognized nations comparable to Spain and France.

In the meantime, Wix says Morocco and Sri Lanka swimsuit the aim as a result of they require few inside flights – a facet of a tour that’s a lot trickier and extra cumbersome to line up as a shock. In these nations, you’ll be able to have a driver present as much as ferry your shoppers to their thriller subsequent cease.

It’s very important, she provides, that you’ve the best individuals on the bottom – be that tour guides, drivers or resort employees – to assist transfer the thriller journey alongside and drop every bit of knowledge on the proper time.

On the mega-luxe finish of issues, tour operator Black Tomato can be getting in on the thriller journey sport – with a little bit of a twist. Its excessive “Get Misplaced” idea provides hardcore intrepid varieties a possibility to check their mettle by getting dropped in a thriller abroad location.

They set off not realizing the place they’re going and discover themselves marooned in a distant panorama with solely a information, compass and necessities to assist them discover their manner out.

Impressed by the adage, “Generally you’ll want to get misplaced to search out your self”, journeys price upwards of £10k and even £15k.

It’s extra of a psychological problem than anything: the operator says Get Misplaced can “assist individuals to disconnect, have interaction within the second and push themselves to attain a really rewarding sense of satisfaction”.

General, this motion looks like a reasonably pure development for a time-poor, cash-rich journey crowd that wishes to place its belief in an knowledgeable with the utmost depth of information – in addition to shaking up our idea of a vacation following months of burnout or obstacles to worldwide journey.

As Alex Wix places it: “You come to a tour operator to have them take a few of that trip-planning strain off you – so why not have them take all of it?”

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