Some years back, a friend and I were trying to think of a good, cheap travel destination where we could kill a little time. We quickly passed by such obvious answers as Mexico, Jamaica, and North Dakota, and eventually settled on Africa. The appeal of this distant continent was that neither of us knew the first thing about it. This was a land of dart-shooting pygmies, man-eating hippopotami and crazy languages where every other syllable is a tongue-click. It offered endless intrigue and adventure, and from what we had gathered from popular media, it could all be had at rock-bottom prices.

I posed the question "How much do you think it would cost to travel through Africa for a year?"; my friend did some quick calculations, drawing off of years of hard-earned ignorance, and delivered his estimate "probably about a bag of beads and a goat."

It's really very fortunate that we never tested this theory, and are thus still able to sit around and concoct ideas of similar stupidity. But it was from this discussion that a new philosophy was born, one that would let me delve deeper than most travelers ever could - or would ever want to.

The fundamental problem I've observed in tourism today is that, going into a trip, the average tourist is far too knowledgeable about what there is to a place and what he plans to do there. By the time the traveler boards the plane, there is already an itinerary drawn out, rooms reserved, and tours booked; he knows what he'll encounter and has made every possible preparation to deal with it. And if some freak accident were ever to cause him to miss a beat in his master plan, there would always be a few behemoth suitcases bearing every conceivable convenience to set things right again. Driving all this is a ludicrous budget, far exceeding the annual income of the average local, which can provide for even the most improbable scenarios in a heartbeat.

What we've lost, in this uncanny ability to see absolutely everything of any import in a week and materialize hamburgers out of thin air at a whim, is the sense of the unknown. No more do we cast out to endless seas with no inkling of what may await us on a distant shore. Rather, we examine our timeframe and budget, decide exactly what it is we want to see and do, and select whatever destination should most closely match those criteria. What I propose is that we cast aside these notions of itinerary and budget, that we leave our hair dryer with universal power adapter at home, that we do not put...