Lonely Planet Writer

Would you take a mystery trip?

If travel didn't involve some element of mystery, most people would probably stay home. One of the fundamental joys of travel lies in the discovery of the unknown and surprising, the exploration of the space between expectations and ground-level reality. After all, who would jump at the chance to spend 12 hours in a cramped seat watching bad romantic comedies only to arrive somewhere as surprising as their own kitchen? But if you take that to the opposite extreme – if your destination and activities were a complete mystery – would you say 'yes' to going on a trip?

American Express is betting that travelers take that leap and book an entire trip without knowing a thing about where they're going or what they will be doing, simply for thrill of the unknown. Instead of living vicariously through the contestants on The Amazing Race, now you can make the leap and do it yourself (albeit without the chance to win $1 million while competing against Harlem Globetrotters).

AmEx's new booking service, Nextpedition, launched recently with the aim of sending willing travelers on custom mystery trips tailored to their personalities. The first step is to find your 'travel sign' through a quirky and fun personality test. 'The zombie apocalypse is real and they are attacking. What do you do?' asks one question – take it for a test-spin. After questions involving zombies, Facebook status updates, and Star Trek transporters, it somehow determined that I'm a 'Detourist' (surprisingly accurate) – other signs include the luxe-loving 'Poshaholic', the food-obsessed 'Tasteblazer', and the mysterious-sounding 'Farbarian'.

If you choose to go on from there, American Express travel planners build an itinerary for you based on your sign and a personal consultation. Once you book the trip, you receive a mobile smartphone that will provide you with instructions and directions to your next activity as the trip proceeds, plus it keeps you connected with your friends and family back at home so you can share your latest adventures. While this must be logistically and technologically complex for American Express to pull off, pricing seems to be quite reasonable, starting at US$1000 for a seven-day trip for two including airfare and accommodations (this undoubtedly gets higher depending on the length, location and style of the trip – and whether you're a Poshaholic).

The Amazing Race treasure-hunt-style travel might look fun on TV, but when it comes down to actually doing it – and paying for the experience yourself – would you be willing to take a mystery trip? Have you ever taken a mystery trip of a different sort?

[Photo by Earl G. Lonely Planet has been a provider of travel content for American Express since 2006.]

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