Detour: A Digital Audioguide App
Ditch the Guidebook and try Detour: A Digital Walking Tour
By Andrew Christian Castillo
In Paris, I hopped onto a free city tour offered by the hostel where I was staying.
We started at the Bridge of Art but I had to leave at the Louvre. The guide was informative and well-versed in French history, but the problem was he took forever at each stop. The information he gave was good, but I could have just as easily just Googled my way through the city. He was so slow that I had to cut out half-way through in order to catch my train home.
I’m sure many travelers can relate to my experience, and, like me, wish there was a service out there with a little more flexibility in order to expedite the tour-guide experience — at the same time, provide an intimate-city experience similar to a guided tour.
As an ambitious travel writer who loves to avoid tourist routes and hates being stuck in slow-moving tours, crowded with disconnected travelers who only care about museums and guidebook destinations, I find Detour to be an exciting new must-have for modern travelers like myself.
Conde Nast Traveler called Detour “The world’s coolest audio guides.” High praise, but well deserved.
Detour, an iPhone app that has reimagined traditional audio tours, enables urban explorers to wander the streets without an in-person guide, but still hear in-depth information and first-hand history lessons directly from the local population who lived through it.
The tours aren’t linear and adapt to the path of the traveler. Detour also provides variables such as business operating hours, weather conditions and even safety tips. It’s like having your own personal guide in your head, all the time — a little bit creepy, but awesome at the same time! Think of it as the “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience of the travel tour business.
A virtual narrator automatically guides you, the traveler, around the city using GPS. The tours are certainly off-the-beaten-path, too. According to Detour’s website, the tour offered in San Francisco called “The Tenderloin,” is a walk through one of San Francisco’s “most misunderstood–and most rapidly changing–neighborhoods, in the company of people who live and work there. Kathleen,” the narrator, slept in her car until it was stolen. After that, she slept on the street.
“She’ll show you where the Tenderloin’s homeless go to get some rest, introduce you to beat cops who’ve worked here twenty years, and take you inside modern affordable housing. By the end of your walk, you’ll understand why The Tenderloin is a place people go to start over. Or just be themselves.”
But be careful when you go — pickpockets and muggers might be lurking in the shadows.
Detour is a unique way to engage in urban exploration. The walks are designed to reveal the heart of a city. They take you through sections of the city you probably wouldn’t think to go to on your own, and definitely wouldn’t be taken to on a guided tour.
“Our mission is to help people connect to places,” said Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Detour. “There’s only so much a guidebook can tell you. To truly connect to a city, you have to take to the streets. Detour is the app that takes you there in a meaningful way.”
To do this, each virtual curator is a handpicked local — who might not have a fancy title after his or her name, but definitely knows the lay-of-the-land and all the local watering holes, because they call the city they are talking about, home.
Each tour is about 60 minutes long, and the prices are reasonable — about $25 for a city tour, which includes eight separate tours of different parts of the city.
While most tour guides I’ve encountered do know their book stuff, a distinctly local perspective is always better. Sometimes, the most fascinating part about a city isn’t found in a textbook.
For instance, I traveled through Las Vegas, Nevada last year, and hopped onto a tour that drove out to the Hoover Dam. The bus driver had lived in the city for over 30 years.
I was the first to be picked up, and as we drove through the city to pick up other guests from their hotels, the driver gave me an in-depth guide through thereal Las Vegas.
He told me what the crime was like, where the best places to eat were, how the city had changed over the years, and what the city was like outside of the famous strip.
In contrast, on my Paris tour, the man who gave it was from California, and had only been in the city for about 10 years.
He knew a lot about the city and led us to the famous locations, but if I had asked him what the city was like when he was a kid, and how it had changed, he wouldn’t have a clue.
It’s for this reason that Detour is such a valuable asset to the adventurous traveler; to people like me, who’d rather experience locations as they really are, instead of howthey appear in travel brochures
During a deployment as an Air Force firefighter with to the sweltering Middle East, Andy was bitten by the travel bug and smitten with the allure of adventure. Since then, he’s traveled far and wide. When he isn’t on the road, he works as a newspaper reporter in Western Massachusetts. Andy holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master’s in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University.