Getting lost in a foreign place, where you don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language, sounds like a traveler’s worst nightmare! Believe it or not, it’s actually something I actively try to do. “Are you crazy?!” you may ask. Maybe a little, but I do actually have reasons and it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s normally a pretty incredible experience. Here are my thoughts:
“Lost” vs. Lost
In this age of cheap cell service and GPS, it’s actually difficult to get truly lost. In the majority of the world, you can pull out your phone and find out ostensibly where you are and which way you need to go to get “un-lost” in a matter of seconds. (Check out my post on using your phone cheap while abroad for more on that!) What I’m talking about is more of a temporary losing of the way. Not knowing where this road will take you, what’s around the corner, having no fixed destination, wandering aimlessly.
Beautiful New Roads
When you don’t focus on the fastest, most direct or well-traveled route to get somewhere, you can decide to turn onto more picturesque roads instead. It’s called the “scenic route” for a reason! Why walk beside the big avenue of rushing cars when you can stroll through cute neighborhoods, down quaint cobblestoned streets or flower-lined lanes, or along windy forest or riverside paths instead?
I often find when I lose my way is when I discover the best secret places. The locals-only cafe, the hole-in-the-wall bookshop, the tiny but gorgeous neighborhood park, intricately carved architectural stonework, some cool street art, beautiful little churches, a hidden waterfall, rickety old-world bridge, or gnarled climbing tree. In short, all the things the guidebook won’t tell you about.
Thrill of Discovery
Half the enjoyment of finding these interesting routes and hidden gem spots is that sense of the unknown, the thrill of discovery. What will you find down that lane, around that corner? What will you find, that other travelers won’t? The thing that will make this trip personal and memorable to you.
Great Places to “Get Lost” Around the World
Contained places where it’s very difficult to actually stray too far without noticing are perfect for a bit of random rambling. Large parks (city, regional, or National Parks) and botanical gardens are fantastic for this. So are smaller cities/regions with clear boundaries, like Venice or Manhattan. Quaint little towns will peter out into the countryside or a single road when you get to the edge. Walled towns and cities like York, England or Xi’an, China have clear boundaries. These are the best sorts of places to try it if you’re at all unsure, but I do lose my way to a certain extent almost anywhere.
Where & When Not to “Get Lost”
Of course, when you don’t know where you’re going, there’s the possibility that you will end up somewhere you shouldn’t be. Be mindful of no trespassing signs and other clearly restricted areas. If I ever feel uncomfortable or come to a street looks a bit dodgy, I turn around and go back. And I never deliberately get lost at night.
Otherwise, getting lost is a great way to explore a new place! Why not give it a try?
- The Benefits of Eating Off the Tourist Track
- How Travel Helps Me as an Introvert
- The Classic DIY Walking Tour
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