6 reasons why getting lost is good for you, especially when you travel.

When was the last time you got lost?

It is harder these days to actually get lost. Smartphones, GPS navigation, and the abundance of WiFi hotspots means that we are only mere seconds away from finding our current exact location. Even those who are bad at reading maps can rely on turn by turn navigation. Those of us who can’t read a compass can rely on Google Maps to find north. Some of us even have portable cameras that can tell us where we are the moment we take a photo. I think it’s great what technology has done for us, but I am still such a fan of a fold-out map. Not only does it allow me to mentally work out my coordinates, but physically holding up a new map of a new city is like being lost for the very first time again, and it’s a good feeling. Here are 6 reasons why getting lost is good for you:

1) You are forced to talk to more people:

When we travel we are naturally forced to talk to more strangers to get recommendations on a good place to eat, or get a chance to learn a few words in a new language. When we are lost, unless our wizardry gadgets can help us, we are forced to ask for directions. That conversation can sometimes lead to getting to know a stranger on a more personal level, something we are often too busy to do during our daily grind. You become more humble when you are lost in a new environment and more willing to allow others to help.

hmong tribe sapa vietnam

(Trusting the guidance of the Hmong tribe, Sapa, Vietnam.)

2) Your senses become more alert:

I know when I’ve been lost overseas, all of a sudden the street signs become brighter and the subway station names leap off the billboards. The adverts on the buildings become more colourful and the smell of your surroundings all of a sudden exist. You can hear the train approaching from a mile away and feel like everything around you is intensified. Your brain has a primal need to decipher everything around you to help find direction and for a short period your senses have a superhuman effect. If you’re away from the city streets then like magic the grass is greener and vibrant, and the flowers have a stronger scent. You notice the small changes in the wind and the colour of the sky. Being lost awakens our senses and reminds us that we’re alive.

3) It forces you to live in the current moment:

The feeling of being lost takes you deeply and truly into that moment. It is the feeling of uncertainty – the “Where am I?” and this feeling is tenfold when you are abroad and in a never before visited city. Being in this foreign and unrecognisable place forces your brain to take in all the minor details. In your usual daily routine you are occupied with daily habits. Reading the newspaper, updating your status, checking your RSS feeds and adding to your calendar and planning around events. Our minds are often occupied with what’s next, tomorrow, yesterday and we are sucked into the stories of the lives of others. Being lost brings yourself into the current moment and gives you ‘me’ time, and in that moment everything else is less important.

green grass poland

(Me in someplace, Poland.)

4) It opens up possibilities:

If you embrace the feeling of the unknown then it will open up possibilities. Rather than not knowing which path to take, it is now “Which path do I choose?” Down one street could lead you to a hip little reggae bar where they serve $3 cocktails until morning, down another alley could lead you to a temple where the monks are peacefully meditating. The train station that you end up at could lead you home, or to a whole new place. On the flip side, it could also lead you to absolutely nothing, but that is the beauty and fun of open possibilities. The feeling that anything can happen and the spontaneity of it all is a refreshing sensation. Being lost reminds us that it is okay to accept that anything can happen and encourages us to embrace that.

5) You discover new places:

Your friends always share with you the newest coffee shop they’ve discovered, or the latest clothes store to open, the latest cuisine craze to hit restaurants or the latest underground bar. It is always fun to treat ourselves to something new and to find and share new experiences. Travelling and getting lost allows you to discover new places where you least intended. Being lost means you’ve taken the path less travelled and it will allow your curiosity to find that new special place.

6) You create memories that last a lifetime:

Through all of the above, you create memories that will never fade. Trust me on this. You will always remember the time you got lost. Your whole surrounding becomes important and vivid. It is like a dream that felt real, except it was real. You are either scared and want to get home, or are excited at what could be around the next corner. You will always remember the places that you discovered and the decisions that you made. We are so used to daily routines that the feeling of being lost gets forgotten. For many of us we are often glued down to our gadgets, confined to our desks and in most cases have adapted to routine. Create memories that will add chapters to your book of life.

finding white sand langkawi

(Finding paradise, on the island of Langkawi, Malaysia. 2010)

hakone japan

(Finding a little udon restaurant, while wandering through Hakone, Japan. 2013)

So here’s a challenge for you all:

Go and literally get lost; leave your phone at home, book that ticket to a random city, or hop in the car and just drive; and enjoy the sensation and feeling of the unknown. You’d either get lost and never come back, or come back with stories to share.

Come and Find Me,

Peter Paxx

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