It’s confession time. I get lost when I travel. A lot. Everyone tends to assume I have a great sense of direction, or at the very least, know my way around a map, but it’s just not true. I don’t necessarily have a bad sense of direction, I simply don’t pay attention to my surroundings enough and maps are large and cumbersome; what kind of origami master did the creators think we average humans were to be able to refold the darn things back the way they came? You would think that with the advent of mobile technology that I would be rejoicing at the ease in which I can locate myself, find my destination, and expeditiously make my way there. Nope. I rarely use GPS to help me get around. I actually want to get lost and I think other travelers should get lost more often too.
There’s a certain art to getting lost and as we rely more and more on technology to show us the way, we travelers are losing our way.
Shouldn’t travel be about exploration? That’s certainly why early travelers like Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus, and Amelia Earhart set off to far-flung locales. While the travelers of today may not be making the same ground-breaking discoveries that these early explorers did, there’s still a world out there for us to discover and we’re missing out on so much if we’re only concerned with getting from point A to point B.
What about all the in-between? Just because something isn’t in a guidebook or a recommendation from a friend doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be discovered. It isn’t until we go off the beaten path, make a few wrong turns, and get lost that we can really learn what we’ve been missing with our get-there-straightaway attitude.
“We haven’t located us yet” is one of my favorite lines from Wes Andersen’s India-based travelogue, The Darjeeling Limited. While the statement prompts the three main characters to start a spiritual journey of self-discovery and bonding, I’m not saying that every travel experience should be a spiritual endeavor. But there is value in getting lost, being lost, and getting, um…unlost.
To this day, I still take pleasure in being lost. Many times when I go out exploring, I have no destination, no agenda. I take random turns, I go down alleyways, I follow interesting people, and inevitably, I get lost. I don’t worry about it and I never use a map. I just keep exploring and most often, I discover special things and places I never would have otherwise.
Isn’t that the dream of a modern traveler? To discover something exceptional that no one else has before? It’s still possible, even with all the information we can find on the internet and social media these days, if we just allow ourselves to wander, explore, and get lost a bit more.