The love affair began when he found Mount Hopeless. In 2015, Damien Rudd, an Australian artist based in Amsterdam, was researching an ill-fated 1860 expedition by two Europeans trying to traverse the Australian continent on foot when he came across a description of the mountain. Despite the fact that a previous colonizer had named it “Hopeless” and aborted his expedition, these later explorers pressed onward … and died en route.
Thus began Rudd’s obsession with melancholy place names. Using Google Maps, Rudd rounds up places like Crying Child Island, Road to Nowhere, and Stupid Lake, and posts screenshots of the locales to his Instagram account, @sadtopographies. The account now has over 100,000 followers, and in 2017 he published a book under the same name. “I think the real reason this project works is because it appeals to our postmodern sensibilities: the self-deprecating, nihilistic irony that currently dominates pop culture,“ says Rudd.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we scoured Sad Topographies for the loneliest, heart-achiest destinations on earth and looked into how they got their names, for a travel guide only the truly alienated could love. Sometimes you need to get lost in order to find yourself; sometimes, everybody just wants you to get lost.