Those of us beholden to constant communication—who find their phones glued to their hands even while on vacation—have benefitted substantially from trips where WiFi and cell service remains sparse. Many of us—those who’ve traversed the globe to the best of their ability and can list dozens of countries and cities as already explored—also dream of remoteness and the next distant destination. With adventure a driving purpose, some of us even imagine the joy from being lost with only the necessary tools to find one’s way out. This concept happens to be the spirit behind luxury travel company Black Tomato’s new program: Get Lost. This is the organization that grabbed our attention for Game of Thrones and Westworld travel packages. But this new option represents something more. It’s the potential for a journey of self-discovery, yes, but it’s also an earned experience—where mental and physical fortitude can be challenged along the way. Help remains just out of sight (if needed) but travelers must find their way forward and ultimately out.
In today’s hyper-connected world (with rigorous air travel control mechanisms), it may seem difficult to get lost or not know where someone is taking you. Tom Marchant, Black Tomato’s co-founder, explains this best. “When people get in touch there are different levels you can opt into,” he begins. “One is, you pick the environment that you’d like to get lost in—polar or jungle or dessert and you can pick the flights out. Or, you can just roll the dice. Some guests will land in a certain place and know where they’ve landed but not where we are taking them from there. Others show up at the airport and learn from there. Five hours later, after helicopters and jeeps—when the blindfold is lifted—they have no idea where they stand.” Black Tomato’s network means more than helicopters and jeeps, but also private jets and boat charters. People can turn up at private airports with the pilot in on the secret, as well.
“We are always trying to find new ways to reward people when they travel,” he continues. “As well as wanting to see new places, people also wonder what sort of transformative effect new places can have on you. There’s a new economy of what we call the earned experience, where people are reacting against the instantly available life we’ve come to expect day to day. They want to feel like they’ve achieved something.” From this, Black Tomato developed their program. From the reveal, guests are given a kit with a satellite phone and the support of someone (invisible) watching from nearby. A trek has been plotted in some way, and the guest must progress and meet somewhere next, down the line.
As these tailored trips focus on the psychological and physical impact, Black Tomato spent a long time perfecting parts of it. There are also surprises. “We are building in some real delights,” Marchant says. “Some of the trips, at the end of each day, there might be a camp with an additional kit, but as it’s bespoke, they may have some luxury touches. For example, if someone is in the jungle, they’ll finish one day in a beautifully assembled tent, and wake up to four kayaks on the river. You’re going down the river with others but you have no idea where to. Every day can have a reveal like this.”
Marchant—a seasoned traveler—is full of wisdom. “Luxury is about the uniqueness of the experience—the rarity of it all,” he makes note at one moment before mentioning that “relaxation is, if even for a brief moment, being able to forget about everything else.” These are tent poles to Black Tomato and Get Lost. “Technology is a great facilitator but it does everything for you,” he concludes. “It takes away the sense of romanticism and discovery that travel should be about.” There might not be anything more empowering and romantic than dedicating brain space to figuring out where you are, where you need to go and how to get there.