Is modern travel too curated? If you’re after a more rewarding travel experience, put down the phone and go and get lost, suggests our featured contributor Leon McCarron.

A few years ago, I walked across China, from the northern edge of the Gobi Desert to the South China Sea. For 3,000 miles, my walking partner Rob Lilwall and I plodded southwards, following whichever trail, valley, river or road seemed to best take us towards our destination.

We found it impossible to access detailed topographical maps of much of China and so relied on cheap, nasty road atlases—that were almost always wrong—and an early iteration of the iPhone. The latter proved somewhat helpful when we wanted to follow roads, but it was completely useless for finding our way through the mountains and forests.

It also, in its detached automation, pointed us into areas that were not open to foreigners … and more than once, we found ourselves inside police stations trying to explain how we unwittingly wandered into closed military zones. This said as much about our own competence and awareness as it did about the navigational methods, of course.