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. heading to the top of a ski resort last run and an intense fog covering it all. Just the whitest of whites surrounding me. No time to lose before they were closing and starting to get ready for next day! Huge tractors noise, still without being able to see a thing, I thought they were going to get me run over! Scary

    early this year when travelling alone to NY, i stay somewhere at 51th street & wandering around making myself “lost” when i stumble rockfeller center & times square at the same night. it happen on 1st day i arriv at NY.. and the experience is priceless 🙂

      I’m sure stumbling upon Times Square and Rockefeller Center like that was much more exciting than if you had planned it out! Glad to hear you had a good “getting lost” experience in NYC. 🙂

    Just a small lost experience – getting lost in a district in Ho Chi Minh City where few foreign tourists tread – and ending up finding a very good, rather hidden, cheap garden restaurant. Yay!

    I completely agree! Especially with travelling – and getting lost – with a significant other before marrying them! It’s funny because I’m one of the most stressed out, worrying sorts of people, but when I get lost abroad I’m pretty relaxed because it makes you realize that freaking out about things doesn’t help. Focusing on fixing the problem, or in appreciating the things you might not have experienced if you didn’t get lost, is the best way to deal with it. And it can be really fun!

    Of course, my totally zen approach to getting lost completely goes out the window if I have a train to catch. Haha.

      I know exactly what you mean! But yeah, I still stress sometimes if I’m on a set schedule and get lost!

    Some really nice insights here.

    Congrats on making the “100 Reasons To Travel” list by Trip Logic – http://goo.gl/7yH6Q. As a fairly new blogger, I was pleased to make the list as well (# 16).

    If you have a moment, check out my admittedly quirky travel blog at http://www.travelbyterry.com. It’s a fun read, or meant to be at least. ;0)

    A few years ago I was traveling alone through a remote part of France, driving a car from Spain to England. You see, I usually take the back roads and meander through the countryside. One day I realized I was completely lost and was actually driving in a vineyard! Then the road came to the farmhouse and I thought ‘oh dear, I will get a rocket now for trespassing’. Did I? Oh no I was welcomed into the house by the owner and his wife and was given a superb meal with lots of their own wine (plus a delicious walnut liqueur). As it was getting late they asked me where I intended to spend the night and I said I have no idea (remember I am lost), so they insisted I spend the night at the farmhouse. Such friendly hospitable and friendly people, the French.

      What a great story!! It’s instances like that that give you faith in the generosity and hospitality of strangers. Sounds like a wonderful experience, and one I’m sure you’ll never forget!

    I found this post late following your recent tweet. It’s very true that getting lost isn’t all bad, I remember getting lost in Germany the once and had a wonderful time. Although it cost me a bit of money to get back enroute.

    Thanks for this interesting and thoughtful post.

      There are some situations when getting lost leads to much better experiences and stories than if you had stayed on-course!

      Thanks for reading.

    I love to go wandering and get lost in new places all the time. I usually try to buy a map to help me get back to my hotel or car but sometimes they are hard to find 🙁
    I wish I had a small gps unit that would point me in the right direction when I am ready to get back. And there are some on the market!!! I’ve tried some and The HomeStar is the best quality unit: http://www.dhtventures.com

      These days, if you have a smart phone you can also just download a Google Maps app (or something similar) that can help find you directions right in the palm of your hand!

    There is really no such thing as travelling without anything going wrong, stuff always happens. I absolutely agree that travelling as a couple is the best relationship test there is. Especially when you get lost and both of you have different ideas where you need to go, you can get some pretty intense debates about that in the car. Getting lost by itself always brought me to some interesting destinations as well, its just part of the travel experience.

      The people who travel and expect everything to go according to plan are in for a rude awakening! You’re right – getting lost is just part of the travel experience.

    I´ve been in more than my fair share of buses that ended going in the wrong direction or the driver forgot to tell me to get off. It´s no big deal, you get out, find a place to stay and explore the place for a day. It´s often the more interesting city instead of a touristy one.

      I like your style, Ayngelina. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do except just go with the flow and try to make the best out of it.

    […] articles can be found on a little gem of a site, what got me going was the article about “getting lost” while on vacation is the way to go… It got me thinking about the time where I got lost […]

    Hmm, I’m not sure if I like getting lost but I find that I do it quite often! It’s okay, I don’t mind it. I usually end up finding some great hidden spots to duck in for a drink/snack and there’s always a sense of accomplishment when I finally do find my way back.

      And I think that sense of accomplishment is so important when you’re traveling. It can be such a confidence booster when you get yourself un-lost all on your own!

    I love getting lost! I like to go from the hostel or host where I’m staying and try to walk to a point a ways away- maybe 20 minutes to an hour away by foot. I let myself ask people if I’m going in the right direction and I try to not look at my map. I usually end up stumbling across something I wouldn’t have sought out and I notice a lot more since my nose isn’t stuck in a map or guidebook. Once I get there, I let myself take the public transportation back unless there is something I really wanted to see. It makes it cheaper (paying only for one transport ticket instead of two) and sometimes you don’t notice just how close you are to some sites until you walk! Rome is big, but the ‘touristic center’ isn’t THAT big. So, just walk it! Around every corner is an amazing plaza or a phenomenal street and you might just stumble into the best, most authentic gelateria that is tourist-free and all yours!

      I love your point about getting to see more when your nose isn’t stuck in a map or guidebook! So true. And I love walking it in cities, too. For me, it helps me get myself oriented. And I’ll always pick fresh air over a stuffy bus or train!

    Loooooove getting lost when traveling, you ALWAYS stumble across something spectacular that way!

    “Many people say you should live with a significant other before you marry them. I say you should travel with them.” I couldn’t agree with this more! It’s SO important to travel with someone before you marry them.

      Hey Andi! Thanks for reading! Glad to hear of someone else who’s stumbled across good things while being lost.

      And I love how travelers agree with my “travel with them before you marry them” comment!

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