Friday, January 03, 2020

101 Things #43 - Have Dart, Will Travel

Travel to remote or unusual places comprises a very significant part of most bucket-lists. The vast majority of travel recommendations are for specific locations and I see no reason in pouring contumely on them or on those who wish to go there.  Today, however, I am happy to include in my list of rejected ideas, 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die, one of the vaguest and most random proposals I have encountered.  There is no way that I might, as suggested by a contributor on Pinterest,

Throw a dart at a map and travel to wherever it lands.

At first glance this may sound an appealing concept. Let the laws of aerodynamics and the sureness of your throwing arm determine your forthcoming travel plans. No more wearisome arguing with your other half about the local cuisine or the unsavoury habits of the locals - let Fate decide. You take out of your trusty arrows1, kick the cat to get it out of the way and let fly. Off you go.

Let us begin to hack away at the foundations of the whole 'Dart-Travel' conflation. Firstly and most crucial what is meant by "map"? 2. Is it a flat paper map, with all the problems of the most common projections distorting the real shape of the earth's landmasses? If it is, does it cover the whole world or a subset that represents places you would rather go to in the first place (for example, a large scale map of some of the more pleasant harbours of the north Cornish coast). If the latter, this undermines the randomness behind the 'chuck a dart at it' reasoning. But if it is the whole world then most of it happens to be ocean. Do you really want to spend a few nights at 140oW, 22oS, clinging to a raft, watching the foam, the waves and the circling sharks, and wondering if that yacht is really going to come back for you?

It is no better if you use a globe as your target.
Pic:see link

 If it is stationary then you have effectively ruled out some 60% of the world because the dart will not able to hit the bits not facing you or which are occluded by the supporting mechanism. If the globe is given a spin before you throw, then, whilst this will significantly increase the number of places you might hit, the dart will almost certainly rebound instead and perhaps inflict on you or an innocent bystander a nasty injury, one on which no insurance company is going to pay out.

The only reasonable answer is to use a flat map, preferably with something like the Peters projection, but with the major oceans cut out, and keep on throwing the dart until you hit land (or a patch of water that it is reasonable to visit, such as the beach at Monte Carlo). Hopefully you can do this before there are so many holes that it falls to bits.

However, if you want a really random result (as is implied by the spirit of this idea), then actually aiming at the map is right out. You must look away or wear a blindfold.


The consequences for your china-ware, windows and pets may be drastic so you are best advised to do the throwing bit in your shed or outside your property, perhaps with a suitable warning issued to the neighbours and a man with a red flag on standby3.

Now, if fortune has favoured us, we have stuck the dart in a piece of land that we can actually try to visit (in other words we have not hit the interior of Antarctica, the Darien Gap, Chernobyl, Area 51 or GCHQ, amongst others). Here, though, is where our fortune runs out. On inspection you realise that the place selected is rife with yellow fever and malaria, the government is run by a rabid bunch of xenophobes, disaffected rebels with ground-to-air missiles live near the airport and no sooner has the rainy season ended and the floods finally subsided than the dry season starts and water rationing and power shortages are in force. You will need a visa which takes at least three months and £800 to obtain and must exchange all of your currency for the local, worthless, paper on arrival. The Rough Guide recommends only one hotel but when you look it up on the internet you find it burnt down a year ago. Camping is illegal without a permit (that's another £800) and staying with locals requires registration and reporting to the police daily.

You had better cheat (nobody need know) and take another throw of the dart. You can go on chucking it until at last it sticks in near Disney World, which you always wanted to visit anyway, and you can finally make your travel plans. But let's be honest - you haven't really done the Dart-Travel thing at all, have you? You have done what anyone with half a brain cell does - gone to somewhere you actually want to visit. And that is why my darts set will stay in the cupboard4.

1. Or "arrer", as they say in these parts, especially people from Sarf 'Arrer.
2. I assume you all know what a dart is and how to throw one. If not, there are plenty of educational videos on the internet, I imagine.
3. Green will do in a pinch
4. At least, it was in the cupboard the last time I looked but that was a long, long time ago, now I come to think of it. Trouble is, I don't think I can justify buying a new set. Still, as I am not going to do the 'Dart-Travel' thing, it doesn't matter a jot and I don't know why I bothered to mention it in the first place.

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