It’s ideal to start from a central station or one that has as many lines as possible. Your goal is to assign yourself a destination in a way that keeps it a surprise. Here are a few ways you might go about doing that. adjust, remix, & invent as you desire.
All of these techniques work best when you take the results seriously. What if your destination is a place you’ve been before? Sometimes the familiar is the most unknown. What if you’re afraid it will be a boring place? Unbore it. Let it unbore you. What if you’d rather go to the next stop on the line, or the last, or someplace you have a yen for? You can go on an ordinary excursion at any time—this is your chance to unknow.
Yes, it’s a kind of game. So play hard.
1) Shuffle up
If your station offers free printed timetables (as those in new york do), gather them all up, shuffle, and pick one randomly. Decide in advance how to choose among the destinations on the timetable (go all the way to the end of the line, or halfway there, or roll a die for the number of stops you’ll go). With some extra preparation time, you can gather the names of all the destinations that take one to three hours of travel time and write them onto index cards (or the blank cards in this kit). You and your friends can use these cards for virtually endless adventures.
2) Timing the Timetables
Choose an exact time you want to arrive at your destination. Search all the available timetables for the destination which most precisely matches your arrival time. Alternately, choose an exact length of travel, and match your destination to that (this requires a bit more figuring).
3) The Right Hand Doesn’t Know what the Left Hand is Doing
Unfold a transportation map, or walk up to one in the station. Avert your eyes and let your left hand sweep across the map until it finds a spot. Write down the destination nearest to your left index finger. This, of course, is a classic.
4) The Easy Unknown
If you’re not all that familiar with the city you’re in, almost any destination will be unknown. Go to the station and choose by whimsical criteria. Choose a place by its evocative name (Valhalla, or Babylon, for instance, if you happen to be starting from New York), or take the first train that’s leaving and decide how long you’ll stay aboard, or follow a passenger with an interesting hat.
5) The Budget Unknown
If train travel is beyond your means at the moment, ordinary bus and subway trips offer plenty of unknown. Add ferries into the mix if you have them. Simply pick the destination you know least about or adapt one of the other methods above. Or set out on foot using psychogeographical systems: navigate one city using a map from another, draw a diagram or picture on a map and try to walk it, follow a particular color, going from red to red to red all afternoon (see appendix 3).
6) A Little Help from Your Friends
Go to the station with one or more friends, agreeing to travel to separate destinations. Have each person choose a destination they know nothing about, then trade destinations with each other, creating a double layer of the unknown. Or make a chain with your friends, paying forward: buy a ticket for one friend who will then buy a ticket for another, and so on.
7) Destination Party
Gather a list of all the destinations the right distance away. Gather timetables for all those destinations (as many copies of the timetables as you have destinations). Gather blank notebooks, or materials to make them from recycled paper. Gather cards for the names of destinations. Gather big envelopes. Get together with friends over pizza or mexican food and fill an envelope for each destination. Include a card with the destination, a timetable, a notebook. Seal the envelopes and distribute however you like. Feel free to adapt this according to your own ideas and desires.
–Sal Randolph, Artist-In-Residence