On Getting Lost

“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.”
-Ray Bradbury

old-montrealFor some, getting lost in a city is simple. For me, it’s an art.

When I was younger, my parents planned almost every part of our vacations. It was great that they did that because it exposed my brother and me to more culture and education, and it probably prepared us for more structure in our own lives. Now, I’ve developed a different traveling philosophy.

Maybe it was a mild case of rebellion on my part, or maybe it was just that I didn’t want to spend the time planning my every move. Whatever the reason, I began spur-of-the-moment excursions while still in college–and I rarely planned more than directions to my destination and place to stay.

My first such adventure was the summer before I studied abroad in London. My friend and I drove north to the Green Mountains of Vermont to go camping and hiking for a weekend. All I had as preparation for that weekend was directions to the state park campground outside Bennington–I figured we could find trail maps in the area.

The following day we drove in the opposite direction of town, down unfamiliar streets–we turned down roads just to see where they went in the hopes of finding a ranger station, map, or trail head. The latter was the only one we found that weekend.

When I arrived in London a month later, I purposely left my pocket A to Z guide in my room. Each day that I ventured out to a new location, I would scope out areas on the map before heading out. Most days I had no idea what was in my selected area.

During my first week, I took a long walking trip through the city. I don’t recall where I began, but I wound up in Covent Garden as the skies opened. I purchased an umbrella that lasted until I returned home in December and stumbled upon the Doc Marten’s store, at which point I traded in my soaked Chuck Taylors for a pair of waterproof boots. If I hadn’t been wandering aimlessly, I wouldn’t have known the store existed and I would’ve had many more pairs of drenched socks.

I have changed my methods slightly as I’ve grown older. I tend to plan parts of journeys–there are always specific sites to see and restaurants to try. But, I always leave time for wandering and getting lost because it’s usually how I find some of the most interesting sites, restaurants, or shops. Getting lost is also how I tend to meet people. Now, in parts of Panama, I didn’t want to get too lost because there are neighborhoods that aren’t the most desirable (I also didn’t want to get lost in forest and eaten by wild animals).

Happy travels, and don’t forget to get lost.

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