Spontaneous Immersion

Andrew Mason
Jun 14, 2017 · 2 min read

One of the reasons we decided to build Detour is that it fits into the two major trends driving consumer behavior in travel: spontaneity and immersion.


When our parents travel, attractions and restaurants are booked months in advance. In contrast, some of my friends don’t even book a room until they’re in-destination.

We don’t like planning ahead. It feels oppressive; like we’re locking ourselves in before we’ve stepped foot in the place and have a sense of what it’s about. Planning makes vacation feel like work. This impulse has been enabled and amplified by the rise of mobile devices, which now host over half of purchases on some major in-destination activity marketplaces, and the on-demand economy.


The popularity of services like Airbnb and EatWithMe speaks to travelers’ desire for authentic experiences. We want to travel like locals — “tourist” is a dirty word. This form of travel is typically called “experiential,” but I think “immersive” is a better term. We seek to be imbibed with an intuitive sense of what makes the people of a place different from all the other people in all the other places. By the time we depart, our trip is a success if the strangers we pass on the street no longer feel like a total mystery.

Immersive travel exists in contrast to informative travel — sight seeing tours where you collective historic and cultural trivia. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the rise of experiential travel has correlated with the rise of the Internet. We don’t need to travel to acquire information — it’s a commodity. Now we need something deeper from travel for it to feel worthwhile.

How Detour fits in

The problem is that spontaneity and immersion are typically opposing forces. You can’t summon a Italian grandmother from her countryside farmhouse to teach you to make pasta the way you summon an Uber. You have to choose: Plan ahead for a transformative immersive experience, or be spontaneous and hope you get lucky. Until Detour.

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Historically, Detour would be categorized as an audio tour, but today there’s a new term for it: augmented reality. It’s a taste of Her — the responsiveness to location and floating sound design, and the ability to walk the entire tour with your phone in your pocket, leave you feeling at times like you’re walking around with a gay rights hero, documentary filmmaker, hippie activist, or one of our other narrators that were selected because of their special relationship to the place.

We didn’t start Detour because we love taking walking tours or audio tours — we started it because we wanted an immersive way to experience places on-demand. With 120 walks in 17 cities, trying Detour has never been easier. Use my referral code to take your first Detour free.

Detour is a platform for location-based audio experiences…

Andrew Mason

Written by

Detour Blog
Andrew Mason

Written by

Descript, formerly Detour, Groupon

Detour Blog

Detour is a platform for location-based audio experiences, available in the iOS App Store and coming to Android in June. We make our own premium outdoor tours in San Francisco, New York, and other cities. We also provide tools that let anyone create their own tours.

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