Growing up, my parents taught me a lot of things, as parents do. But they taught me a few lessons that I now realize many are still trying to learn… or may never learn. One of those lessons being this: the shortest or fastest route is not always the best route. In fact it’s almost guaranteed to be the most boring route, and it should only be taken if someone in the car realllllly had to pee. Getting off the beaten path and getting lost is more than OK, it’s a way of traveling, and often leads to the most unexpected surprises and adventures between point A and point B.
When I left home, I soon realized that most people take the fastest route between point A and point B. In doing so, they miss out on all the most interesting possibilities and curious adventures: All those nuggets of culture, lesser-known vistas, and interesting individuals which you’ll never find on a freeway, or at 30,000 feet.
Now that Waze and Google Maps are things that exist in our pockets at all times, we can all rejoice (or in my case, cry), knowing that we will never feel lost again.
How boring it is to never wonder anymore. The answer is always in your pocket.
Is getting lost really all that bad?
Taking the long way: through small towns, along a jagged coast line, though state forests or no-mans-land, was always extra fun. We were never in a hurry to get somewhere, and our vacations were planned this way: open ended, adventurous, enjoying whatever the wind blew our way. We were always getting lost, on purpose, and it was awesome.
For some people, getting lost is a terrifying experience… it’s basically the worst thing that could happen. And God forbid you’re late. I get lost all the time and my husband makes fun of me for it every time. But this is why I always leave early to get somewhere. By planning to get lost, and I’m never late (actually, I’m usually early), just like my parents did on our vacations growing up. It’s just become part of how I travel. I’m not afraid to get lost, and you shouldn’t be either.
Getting Lost Abroad
I have a great story about getting lost in Dakar, Senegal, alone, at night, with a giant suitcase. But I’ll save those details for another day. The point is this: When you’re lost (really lost, without a cell phone or a map) in a foreign place, you become very resourceful and do things you didn’t know you could do. You quickly discover your own aptitude, and become suddenly stronger and wiser. And when you suddenly find yourself un-lost, you appreciate the world’s cruel yet endearing sense of humor. Obviously, I eventually became un-lost in Senegal through a series of lucky & serendipitous people and events.
That’s the thing about getting lost: It’s temporary. And if you accept it a spontaneous adventure, getting lost can actually be a lot of fun! And you usually come out of the predicament with a great story that you get to tell for the rest of your life. Getting lost is a small price to pay.
Plan to get lost
When you’re traveling with others they might not be as excited for an adventure as you are, but if you’re going to go it alone, you can keep your plans open ended and take advantage of the adventures getting lost will inevitably bring. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll end up, or how you’ll get there.
So the next time you’re thinking of sticking to a plan, arriving on time, and following Waze on the fastest route to your beachfront holiday houses, check yourself! Toss your GPS and phone in the backseat, keep the map in your truck (yes, I have a real-live paper map in my trunk!), have nowhere to be, and see where the road takes you.
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