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