This article is intended as a contribution to the debate on the epistemology of educational research. It is as much concerned with research as a social process as it is with the process of social research. The authors draw upon ways of walking, discussions of embodiment, place and materiality, and their analogues in relation to the processes of social research in order to explore alternative ways of knowing, and to explore what happens when accounts of the difficulties in conducting research are generally suppressed in sanitised reports of research findings. The distinctions between 'occupant' and 'inhabitant' knowledge, and between wayfaring and travelling betoken radically different conceptions of applied research in the social sciences. The authors explore the potential of anthropological and literary metaphors to explain the methodological challenges encountered during a specific research project: a three-year study of 'routes, destinations and outcomes' for a group of young people excluded from special schools and Pupil Referral Units, funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.