Between the ages of approximately eight and fourteen, I was regularly made the Official Chief Navigator in my Dad’s car. It was a job I took very seriously, because in those days my friends, GPS navigation was not a real thing; it was all about the A-Z Atlas. This was a job that involved real skill, not just the ability to talk to Siri.
I would look up our destination in the index, find it on the grid, pencil an ‘x’ (because we all know ‘x’ marks the spot), on our end goal and then attempt to determine a suitable route for our adventures. On quite a few of these adventures my dad would suddenly announce, ‘I don’t believe it…we’re lost!’ Turns out I might not have had such a strong hold on those real skills as I believed at the time.
But my point here is that all those times we got lost meant more fun, the discovery of new (way more scenic and pretty and interesting) routes, and set me up for life in the belief that getting lost- if you follow the Rules of Getting Lost- is always a good thing. Even if it feels like a bad thing at the time, you’ll probably learn something from it 😝
The pace of getting lost should always be leisurely.
On my first day in Savannah, Georgia, we set off merrily at the beginning of the day believing that we were headed vaguely in the direction of the river. We casually strolled past delapidated mansions, were greeted by any person who happened to be sat on their front porch (I had no idea till then that people actually do that, but I full on loved it), and generally had a lovely time meandering in the direction we thought we should aim for. An hour and a half later we had casually strolled through several residential areas and appeared to actually be going in the complete opposite direction, towards the outskirts of the city. Once that fact dawned on me I stressed out for approximately 5 seconds, then realised that it totally didn’t matter! We had time on our hands and we’d seen part of the real Savannah that a lot of people don’t get to.
Other ideal locations for getting lost are basically anywhere with an Old Town, winding streets, meandering lanes. You get what I’m saying. Venice. Barcelona. Tiny villages in the countryside. Hedgerow mazes.
Soak it all in.
Following on from the above 😊 …
Getting lost is beaut because you can take the time to notice things that people tend to ignore when they’re in such a hurry. And you totally do not have to go to a different faraway place to do that…take a different route to work, explore somewhere close by that you’ve never been…or travel to the opposite ends of the earth you know, it’s up to you. Whatever floats your boat.
Look around you, don’t stare at the blue dot on your google maps app. Look up, listen to the sounds, breathe in the smells (don’t inhale too deeply if they’re actually really gross smells, that would be silly). It’s really fun to just notice things, know what I’m saying!?
Try to get lost only in daylight.
Never get lost in the dark, people! (Unless you’re 100% certain that you’re in a safe area and getting lost in the pitch black makes the experience a more magical one. Once I got lost in Toronto at 1am and I didn’t feel even the slightest smidge of fear during the whole hour it took me to get back to my hostel)
I learnt this rule at around 3am one April morning, upon arriving into Houston’s Amtrak station which is located in one of the grimier areas of town. It was dark, humid, I really wanted a shower and sleep, and I was carrying a Ridiculously Oversized Backpack on my back which was just adding to the weary feeling of it all. We got into a cab but the driver told us our hostel was located so close that we might as well walk there…so we blindly set off in the direction that he told us, and just kept going.
The driver either misheard us or was a downright dirty lier, but we were wandering aimlessly through a not particularly safe-feeling, dark and mysterious neighbourhood and I was most certainly not loving it! We saw no fellow human beings which was just eerie, and the unseen source of the bizarre grunt/shuffling noise coming from a bus shelter did nothing to calm my nerves; we swiftly turned on our heels and managed to get a taxi when we finally made it back to the station. Praise the Lord for 24 hour check-in, that’s all I’m saying.
If you start to feel a sense of impending doom whilst lost, make a note of where you are, retreat ASAP, and vow never to return.
A case in point is when my (then) boyfriend and I unwittingly stumbled into San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. The further we walked down this one long stretch of road, the more I began to feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with her spidey sense going fully haywire. Tenderloin is not safe. It does not give off the friendliest vibes, and we probably gave off equally strong foriegn tourist vibes. The meeting of these two vibes is highly undesirable. Safety is key, you guys, so it’s always good to at least have a vague notion of where you’re going to avoid the impending doom sensation which I’m personally not a massive fan of.
Related: Seven Days in San Francisco
Act like you’re 100% certain of where you are and where you’re heading
If you actually do start to feel that you’re genuinely utterly out of your depth, panicking will only make things worse, everything will spiral out of control and most importantly you will not be loving life. If you look like you’re in control of yourself and your life you’ll subconsciously start to feel like that, true fact.
Breathe. Stay calm. Act cool. 😎 Double bonus as if you do this you’ll be less likely to have to deal with harassment from random strangers, which is a very real issue for me mainly as I have a naturally ‘concerned’ expression on my face.
Look for landmarks
Mainly so you can find your way back to wherever you started 😆
I won’t beat around the bush here, some people have far better homing pigeon skills than others. Be observant, remember things. The idea is not to get so lost that you never return to tell the tale.
Strangers are (mostly) your friends
Obviously use your spidey sense with this one, not all strangers are guaranteed nice helpful people. Some are definitely not.
But statistically speaking- probably- the majority of our fellow human beings are downright good and lovely. If you need directions, ask. If you want to know about a place, ask. If you want recommendations of where to go, ask. Locals are the people who are most willing and able to share their advice.
In my experience you can learn a lot more about the world and the places you visit from the people who live and breathe those places every day and the stories they tell.
Now. Get lost, you lot.