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Recreational Wayfaring in the Mountains

Call for papers: Deadlines : October 15th 2019 (abstract) and March 1st 2019 (full article). Guest editor : Chiara Kirschner, (Associate Researcher in Geography, Laboratoire PACTE, Université Grenoble-Alpes) For JAR/RGA: Sylvie Duvillard (Université Grenoble Alpes)


Leaving home on a bike and arriving in China one year later. Walking the length of the Via Alpina with one’s family during the summer. Crossing the Moroccan Atlas Mountains in two weeks by alternately walking up and paragliding down. Getting out of one’s home to stroll around the neighbourhood for a few hours… These are some of the many practices that may be called recreational wayfaring.

Wayfaring is a polysemous word that can refer, depending on the approach that is taken, either to a spatial practice, which can be recreational (Berthelot and Corneloup 2008), or to an intellectual exercise (Greisch, 2002). In both cases, at the core of its meaning, is the element of the detour – (it even appears as part of the title of the aforementioned collective work by Berthelot and Corneloup). In the case of the former (spatial detour), wayfaring refers to a trip that follows an itinerary planned out in advance, although it can change in response to unforeseen circumstances or desires, including with regard to the destination. In the case of the latter (intellectual detour), wayfaring refers to a shift in thought towards an unknown that creates new ideas and, thereby, redefines both the route and the end point of this thought.

The ambivalence between the spatial and the intellectual dimensions makes it possible to regard wayfaring as a concept even before it is considered as a practice. To engage in wayfaring means completing a successful journey with intermittent detours in space and/or thought. This concept enables us to re-interpret recreational practices that are increasingly common in contemporary society.

Upon closer inspection of recreational wayfaring, one sees that the detour can take place on several dimensions: not only spatial but also socio-cultural and existential. This multidimensionality of the detour in spatial and intellectual wayfaring makes it fertile ground for exploring the very concept of wayfaring. On the spatial level, the detour occurs when the route, its form, is changed, and completing it takes longer or shorter as a result (in this particular case, one could even speak of a temporal detour).

The socio-cultural detour takes place on the imaginary (sensory immersion in the wild, for example, see Berthelot and Corneloup, op. cit., and Corneloup, 2016) or the pragmatic levels (trials with the means of movement, see Corneloup and Mao, 2010), but it can also consist of an act of (individual or shared) consideration, the production of new ideas or even the taking of initiatives, when one leaves, as is often the case with wayfarers, in order to escape the technologisation of contemporary society and to put themselves to the test by taking up a frugal lifestyle or even spreading ideas or helping the poorest people on the road (in this respect, Bourdeau mentions a hybridisation between recreational and militant wayfaring and after-tourism, see 2012). One can also leave for one’s own amusement, to discover a new culture, to find stimuli for artistic output etc. From the point of view of institutional stakeholders, recreational wayfaring offers an opportunity to enhance the territories and the heritage found between the tourist sites/resorts, and for new forms of governance to emerge (Cahiers Espaces, 2012). The detour is helped along by forms of technological mediation, such as geocaching (Boulaire and Cova, 2008), or through material supporting the senses and the imagination, as in the Fantasy Trails of Aveyron (Corneloup and Mao, op. cit.).

On the existential level, wayfaring can be turned into a path of initiation that leads to the emergence of a personal goal, the transformation of oneself and a recognition of one’s new place in society (Mercier and Fonovich, 2012). In this case, the detour is purely intellectual and fostered by the relational dimension of wayfaring, exchanges with companions or the connection established with those living along the way. Lallemand (2010) associates wayfaring with a quest for identity through a trial of initiation that leads to contact with the Other, an individual with whom we share neither a language nor a culture. Kirschner (2017) goes into great depth regarding the synergy between the spatial and the intellectual detours that occur when one is confronted with the (physical, material, human and event-related) otherness of the body and of the environment as a whole: and the integration of this otherness.

All these detours, with their stories and twists, often inspire the narrative output of travelling wayfarers – travel journals, stories of wayfaring, films etc. – that is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for researchers and stakeholders in the territories. And as a source of artistic output for artists like Dimitri Vazemsky (

Recreational mountain wayfaring has mainly been approached with a focus on its socio-cultural dimension by studying, on the one hand, its management and, on the other hand, specific practices. Tollis (in Berthelot and Corneloup, op. cit.) has studied the shared (not necessarily commercial) management that exists between wayfaring and the André Crous2019-03-29T10:41:00AJCactors of the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States. Other players leverage natural (e.g. lavender) or cultural (e.g. Mozart) resources. Here it is a question of promoting the detour in a style appropriate for tourism, and the detour of the imaginary. In the support training for spontaneous mountains wayfaring studied by André Crous2019-03-29T10:51:00AJCAndrieu (in ibid.), one can observe sensory and imaginary detours through contact with the mountain environment.

With regard to the study of the practices, mountaineering has been associated with wayfaring, less because of the intrinsic characteristics of this highly standardised practice than because of the nomadic lifestyle it imposes (Amy in ibid.). According to Amy, among the mountain-related practices derived from mountaineering, only freeriding, those participants leave the trails marked on the route and seek out virgin slopes (spatial detour), falls under wayfaring. Kirschner (op. cit.), in line with Berthelot (2011), notes the different dimensions of recreational mountain wayfaring: on the one hand, the sensory and imaginary detour this environment offers and the ecological ethics it promotes; on the other hand, the role the mountain can play as a point of reference on a route that is changing (in terms of both space and existence), for example, Lionel André’s wayfaring in his immediate surroundings, which generates output of a philosophical, spiritual and artistic nature (

Potential themes and issues for the articles to address

The aim of this special issue is to better structure and to broaden the (currently very limited) field of study of recreational mountain wayfaring and to do so from the practitioners’ and the stakeholders’ point of view. The articles will focus on the transactions between the concept of wayfaring, which is based on the detour in all its (spatial, socio-cultural and existential) dimensions, and concrete cases of wayfaring, whether it be spontaneous wayfaring carried out by individuals or initiatives launched by institutions and centring on mountain wayfaring. The mobilisation of the concept of creativity will be particularly valued, but it is by no means the only possible way to interpret the detour at the core of wayfaring. The articles should explore one or more of the following topics and the questions they raise:

  • Detour. What are the specific detours that foster recreational mountain wayfaring? How are they mediated? Is it possible to speak of any other detours in addition to those already mentioned (spatial, socio-cultural, existential)? What about temporal or bodily or some other kind of detour?

  • Practices. Which specific practices (e.g. technical wayfaring, neighbourhood strolls, courses on meditation and well-being that include hikes) seem to be the most promising in this respect? How long do these wayfaring activities last, what form do they take (linear, André Crous2019-03-29T10:34:00AJCcircular...), and what kind are they (thematic, historical etc.)?

  • Cultural output. How does the narrative output related to wayfaring influence thinking around the concept of wayfaring? To what extent can one rely on the narrative output that results from wayfaring? Are there limits to this methodological practice? How can artistic output inspired by wayfaring be a resource for studying and deploying it in the territories?

  • Stakeholders. How do institutional players appropriate wayfaring today? Which techniques of structuring and promoting their offer have shown the most promise? What do they consist of? What roles do (digital and other) technologies and culture play (routes that can be modified, agencies, games ...)? What are the forms of governance?

  • Territorial dynamics. How can spontaneous wayfaring contribute to invigorating the territories? What part do social networks play in enabling the spread of these activities and in the image and reputation of the territories?


Article proposals, around 1,000 words in length, should be sent in either French (if the author is a native French speaker) or English (if the author’s mother tongue is any other language) by 15th October 2019 to Chiara Kirschner, and Sylvie Duvillard,, as well as the editorial team, addressed to Olivier Vallade, Final articles are expected by 1st March 2019. Final articles must be submitted in one of the languages in which the review is published: Alpine languages (French, Italian, German), Spanish or English. The author must see to it that the article is translated into the second language after it has been assessed. One of the two versions must be in English. If the article is submitted by a native English speaker, the second version must be in French. Publication of the articles is tentatively scheduled for December 2020.


« Itinérance douce & tourisme », Espaces tourisme & loisirs, coll. Cahiers ESPACES n° 112, avril 2012

Berthelot, L., 2011.– « Les récits d'expérience pour mieux cerner les arrangements des pratiques itinérantes contemporaines - Dépassement de la logique dialectique et apport de l'après-tourisme ? », in Cousin S., Gravari-Barbas M. , Jacquot S., Tourisme - Concepts et méthodes à la croisée des disciplines, Actes des 1ères Doctoriales du Tourisme

Berthelot L., Corneloup J. (éds.), 2008.– Itinérance, du Tour aux détours : figure contemporaine des pratiques récréatives de nature, L'Argentière-la Bessée, Fournel

Boulaire C., Cova B., 2008.– « Attiser le  »feu du jeu«  postmoderne : le cas du géocaching et de ses zones liminoides », Sociétés, IV (102), p. 69-82.

Bourdeau P., 2012.– « Cerner les contours d'un après-tourisme », in Martin N., Bourdeau P., Daller J. F., Migrations d’agrément : du tourisme à l’habiter, Paris, L'Harmattan, p. 17-33

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Greisch J., 2002.– Paul Ricœur. L’itinérance du sens, Grenoble, Million

Kirschner C., 2017.– « Le projet transmoderne dans les itinérances récréatives. Un processus créatif intégratif de construction identitaire, » Grenoble, Thèse de Doctorat en Géographie, Université Grenoble-Alpes

Lallemand S., 2010.– Routards en Asie. Ethnologie d’un tourisme voyageur, Paris, L’Harmattan

Mercier S., Fonovich M. 2012.– Ils ont fait le tour du monde, Paris, La Martinière.

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