Why You Should Get Lost While Traveling

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Most people don’t like to be lost.

They don’t like feeling out of the loop, or like they’ve missed something. Most of all, they don’t like feeling vulnerable in a strange place.

I understand this — I’m the same way. If I’m driving a car and lose my way, I get frustrated. I snap at my passengers, get nervous, and often say a lot of bad words. I don’t like being lost.

But, the more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve come to realize that, sometimes, getting lost is okay. In fact, getting lost can often be better than finding your way on the first try.


Yes, I’m here to argue that getting lost can actually enhance your travels.

And here’s why.

Why You Should Get Lost While Traveling

Hone your problem-solving skills

Finding yourself lost in a foreign country or strange city can be scary at first. But, instead of looking at it as a potentially devastating situation, try looking at it as an opportunity to hone skills that are important to every traveler.

Get out a map, and learn how to read it. Get over your pig-headedness and ask someone for directions. Look at being lost as an opportunity to test your problem-solving skills. You’ll not only figure out how to get back on the right track, but doing so on your own will leave you feeling like you accomplished something.

Going through this a few times will leave you more prepared in the future.

Compass at Moraine Lake

Learn about flaws – of you and your travel partner(s)

You might be wondering, “How will having me scream at my travel buddies be a positive thing?”

Well, it might not be totally positive, but at least you’ll learn how you and those you’re traveling with handle stressful situations. Getting loss stresses most people out, and everyone reacts just a little bit differently. While fighting about that wrong turn you took or those bad directions you followed certainly isn’t immediately helpful in getting yourself out of the situation, looking back on the reactions later could be.

Maybe you’ll be able to see that you overreacted because it really wasn’t that bad. Maybe you’ll figure out who in your group is the best at diffusing tension. And maybe you’ll pinpoint those in your group that you wouldn’t want to travel with again…

Many people say you should live with a significant other before you marry them. I say you should travel with them.

Tough travel situations usually bring out the “true colors” in everyone.

Have unexpected adventures

Being lost doesn’t automatically mean things must come to a halt. If you’re on foot and find yourself lost, take a stroll around the nearby area and see what you might find. If you’re lost in a car, perhaps just follow the road and see where it takes you.

As long as you’re not on a strict schedule, getting lost can often lead to discovering places or things that you might have totally missed otherwise. After all, they can’t put EVERYTHING in the guide book. View being lost as an opportunity, and not as a setback.

Maybe that wrong turn will lead you on an unexpected adventure. It never hurts to explore.

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park

You'll have the best memories and stories

I don’t know about you, but when I return from traveling, it’s often the stories of mishap and chance that I find myself retelling the most. Sure, people will listen to me talk about my day at the beach. But the day that I got separated from a tour group and climbed to the top of St. Peter’s on accident? Or that time I mistakenly ended up in a weird techno dance club in Beijing? Yeah, those stories do much better.

While being lost may not seem very entertaining at the time, generally these situations make for much richer, more interesting stories in the future.

Plus, people like it when you can laugh at your own blunders.

Learn how to relax and go with the travel flow

Many people approach travel with the assumption that everything will go according to plan — that schedules will be adhered to and timeframes will be met. If you’re one of these people, you are kidding yourself.

Travel is unpredictable. Places and people are constantly changing. And, when you’re traveling, chances are that things WILL go wrong. Travel plans — like rules — were made to be broken.

Accepting that you may get lost along the way will help you to accept that travel isn’t always perfect, and doesn’t always go the way you want it to, or the way you expected it to.

Embracing the benefits of getting lost can help you learn to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy the experience.

Stirling Point, Bluff, New Zealand, International Sign Post

So, next time you find yourself lost, don’t curse your luck or lash out at those you’re traveling with. Instead, take advantage of the situation and your blissful ignorance when it comes to your map coordinates.

Enjoy the freedom.

My caveat: Of course, some situations aren't conducive to getting lost. I definitely wouldn't suggest getting lost on purpose if it's going to put you in danger. And I certainly don't want to make light of truly scary situations in which you might find yourself lost and alone. Get lost. But be safe.

What do you think? Can getting lost actually enhance the travel experience? Do you have any great “lost” stories?


Pin it for later:

Things you learn when you get lost while traveling


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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74 Comments on “Why You Should Get Lost While Traveling

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  1. Traveling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like Breathing. Thanks for the post. Keep sharing…

    Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness.

    […] While I’m a master at booking last-minute tickets, it’s usually for a trip that I’ve meticulously planned. I can just be sometimes slow (ie, lazy) on the “purchase a plane ticket” part of travel planning. Backpacking around the world, I was a full-fledged expert at taking spontaneous trips. I started traveling with an itinerary and then quickly threw it out the window, buying plane tickets and arranging visas weeks or sometimes days before I’d show up on a brand new continent. I’ve lost a lot of that since settling in Berlin so I’d love to recapture it for a trip or two. Book a last-minute plane ticket, show up in a new city and just go from there. It’s refreshing to feel lost every once in a while. […]

    I never refer to it as being lost, I always use the term ‘enjoying the scenic route’ as that’s what it’s all about! You are so right, missing the right turn often leads you to the best view, a new travel experience or meeting an interesting person that never would have happened otherwise! Although, discliamer, it helps if you’re not hangry!

      Haha, yes, definitely helps if you’re not hangry!

    I’m more lost when I try to read maps 😉 I agree with getting lost being often a good idea, you get to see the places you probably wouldn’t reach otherwise. I wrote about it on my blog: http://thetravellersnotes.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/lost-while-travelling-ep-1/

    I wrote it from a point of getting lost in a safe city. I wouldn’t totally like to get lost in a dangerous place (“bad district”) or in the mountains. When me & my friends hiked in the Merbabu Mountain (popular mountain for hiking in Indonesia) the SAR team and local people were looking for a missing person. Luckily the person was found alive after few days.

    “But the day that I got separated from a tour group and climbed to the top of St. Peter’s on accident?” Good for you that you didn’t break the ankle and fell off outside the people’s gaze. That totally shouldn’t be the case for bragging off and suggesting people should get lost and have adventures of their own. Did you think about the consequences this did (or could do) to the people involved?

    “So, next time you find yourself lost, don’t curse your luck or lash out at those you’re travelling with. Instead, take advantage of the situation and your blissful ignorance when it comes to your map coordinates.”
    Sorry, the getting lost should be controlled and you should be aware where can you LET yourself get lost. Surely, you wouldn’t like to go the wrong way, stuck in the desert-type place under scorching sun in a car without gas where passing cars are rare. Or you wouldn’t like to be lost in a jungle.

      Yes, getting lost in a seedy area or dangerous situation definitely would not be as fun, and I wouldn’t advise it in that case!

    There is no point traveling if you don’t want to get lost. It’s when you find all those wonderful things about a destination 🙂

      I totally agree, Michael! I mean, sure, sometimes it’s inconvenient (and it always seems to happen to me when I actually need to be somewhere at a certain time), but that’s just how travel goes!

    Hi again, I love your blog! Reminds me of that time in Vienna when I was slightly tipsy after a bit of Smirnoff Ice (only 4.5% alcohol, and I didn’t feel any effects the last time I had it). Well, my sense of direction has always been abysmal anyway… I was trying to find a certain souvenir stall around the Naschmarkt area in Vienna but ended up finding the beautiful Karlskirche!

      Lucky you! Just more proof that getting lost can lead to some pretty cool finds.

    I completely agree! All the best stories and experiences happened to me when I got lost during my Latin American trip. When I was in Banos Ecuador a group of us were looking for a bar and ended up getting lost and asked some locals for directions on the edge of town. Next thing we know we were having a bunch of drinks with the locals and even got taken to a local bar. Was a really cool night (At least from what I can remember of it haha)

      The best stories almost always come from those serendipitous moments that can only happen to you when your’re lost!

    I would get lost by trying to discern that road sign as well! I agree, getting lost can be frustrating to all, but it does benefit the traveler to gain skills necessary for travel. I have gotten lost in Atlanta, Ga too many times to count. However, it helped me learn how to navigate the city no matter the street. Getting lost can offer many opportunities that one wouldn’t have been offered otherwise. Thanks for sharing your views on traveling and good luck in the future!

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