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Committing random acts of travel

Courtesy Zufall

Valerie McTavish and Tim Wohlberg have come up with a unique way of solving indecisiveness.

Fancy yourself an adventurous traveler? How about upping the stakes and letting chance determine everything from where you go to what you do when you get there?

That’s the idea behind Zufall, a new app that distills the oft-tedious process of travel planning into a simple roll of the digital dice.

Developed by Valerie McTavish and Tim Wohlberg of Kelowna, B.C., Zufall (German for “chance” or “coincidence”) invites users to input a direction, travel time or distance and preferred activity. Shake your phone like you’re at the craps table and the on-screen dice will create a map with a fan-shaped “target zone” showing you where to head and what you’ll find.

For McTavish and Wohlberg, the app is the latest iteration of a commitment to random travel born on their first date. Deciding to go camping, but “crippled by indecision,” as McTavish puts it, they flipped a coin every time they had to make a choice — north or south, east or west, which way at forks in the road, this or that campsite.

“We never regretted a single decision because we never made one,” said McTavish.

Eventually, they moved on to physical dice: an octahedral one with the eight major compass points for direction and a traditional one using 1 through 6 to determine distance based on a chosen parameter. For example, if 1 equaled one block, 6 would equal six blocks; if 1 was 100 miles or two hours of driving, six would equal 600 miles or 12 hours of drive time.

With the new app, travelers can play two ways. The Quick Roll option is pre-set to blocks, which makes it a good choice for finding a nearby restaurant or attraction. Super Zufall, on the other hand, is akin to going all in: Input your travel mode (for example, walking, biking, driving); preferred activity (dining, shopping, exploring); and maximum travel time or distance. Give your phone a shake and go.

Clearly, such roll-the-dice travel is not for everyone. But for anyone who has ever missed a weekend getaway or other trip because they procrastinated while planning, Zufall may prove a valuable tool. The best plan, McTavish and Wohlberg maintain, is not to plan.

Furthermore, they say, too much planning runs contrary to the very idea of travel. “We’ve done the whole guidebook thing — figuring out where you’re going to stay, what you’re going to do — and the trip becomes all about everything you think you need to do once you get there,” McTavish said. “What you miss is the journey along the way.

“When you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t know what’s there, you can focus on the journey again.”

Zufall is available for the iPhone ($1.99) and Windows Phone 7 ($1.29).

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.