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The Best Thing About Getting Lost

April 23, 2012 by Giulietta Nardone

I’m back into essay writing mode. Perhaps, it’s because I have a lot of interests – not sure exactly – but I go through phases where all I want to do is paint or draw, then I enter a new phases were all I want to do is write op-ed pieces, then writing, then savings things.

Well, I’m back in essay writing mode after a 3-month hiatus. Wrote one and am onto a few more. I’ve always wanted to write about the benefits of getting lost. Will script some ideas for the essay here on the blog.

Am not a GPS fan. During our Christmas drive up the Pacific Coast Highway in California, the female voice shouting out of the box mounted on the rental car dashboard while we zoomed around LA got so annoying I had to turn it off. “TAKE A LEFT HERE. TAKE A RIGHT THERE.  1 MILE AHEAD.” Her proclamations kept interrupting our conversation. But even worse, I began to feel like a helpless creature who couldn’t find her way out of a driveway.

I’ve always loved studying maps and figuring out ways to get from here to there. Other times, I like to test my own intuition to get somewhere. Have gotten lost and landed in some cool places I’d have never gone to intentionally. In Portugal, Jimmy and I ended up going down a narrow road listed on the map. A man in a Mercedes tried to talk us out of it – “It’s dangerous,” he said. We went anyway. A twisting turning road through a canyon. Breathtaking, devoid of traffic, no guard rails. A few stones in the road that sometimes got rutted but we went around them. It ended up being a neat cut-through to the next town we wanted to visit.

I also got lost on foot in an Italian Village at 6 am in the morning, the fog so dense I didn’t know which way was the way to the Town Square where someone was giving me a ride to Rome. At first I got anxious – I’ll miss my ride. Then I calmed down – I could take a train – eventually the fog would lift – the town isn’t that big. I began to rely on my intuition – this feels like the way to go and it was. The best thing about travel is the chance to get lost, to feel like all my senses are pumping.

Thoreau said this about getting lost, “It is a surprising and memorable,  as well as valuable, experience to be lost in the woods any time. Not until we are completely lost, or turned around — for a man need only to be turned around once his eyes shut in this world to be lost, — do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves and realize where we are and the infinite extend of our relations.”

I used to get intentionally lost as a child. My mother would shake her finger at me and say, “don’t leave the yard.” Yet, the magic of the world beyond my yard beckoned me. I could no surer stay in that yard than cease to be a child filled with wonder. The funny part is that I never felt lost when a child. I felt at home wandering around the woods and nearby farms and streams. Only when I got older did I develop a fear of getting lost, a panic f not knowing where I was. I’ve been working on getting back that feeling of loving being lost.

Your turn! How do you feel about getting lost? Good, bad, strange experiences? Do you rely on your GPS? Thanks, G.


p.s. for any of you Mass/RI folks I’m offering a new writing adventure called Naked Writing. Click on the link. Will be offering it on-line with conference calls over the summer. Please let me know if you are interested!

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6 responses to “The Best Thing About Getting Lost”

  1. Lou Mello says:

    A very thought provoking post, G. On the one hand, I recall being very adventurous as a kid, wandering everywhere on a daily basis right up until I had a car. Then I started to pay attention to where I was going and used the maps etc to get there. When I was 16 all we had were road maps that you would get at the gas station and there was no such thing as a GPS for cars. I never had a GPS in the car until this past October when I tried it and liked it. I still double check Google Maps and Rand McNally online just to make sure I have my bearings. I guess I haven’t figured out just yet how to get lost in the same way I did when I was a kid. Maybe I’ll try it out soon when I have a day with nothing to do and just take a drive and see where we wind up. Thanks for bringing back some fun memories.

    • Hi Lou,

      Glad you wandered around too. So good for our young minds’ development. I love your idea of a getting lost experiment! Let me know how that goes.

      Life often seems like a giant Lost episode that we try to control. Maybe that’s what makes life difficult at times, our lack of wandering to see what’s around us.

      Appreciate your thoughtful answer! G.

  2. Penelope J. says:

    Hi Giulietta, I wish I lived near Walden’s Pond in Thoreau’s time, or even my childhood seaside village in England where getting lost or as I called it, “exploring,” was romantic and inspiring. To put it in context, how and where you get lost may make all the difference. Also, there’s a big difference between “wandering” and “getting lost.”

    I love wandering and discovering new places, views, and sights. Maybe having a little adventure. But getting lost is an entirely different issue. Perhaps you were fortunate in the outcomes when you got lost, but it can also be a disagreeable experience, especially if you feel helpless, confused, or rattled. It’s not much fun to get lost in heavy traffic or miss a turn and end up on the wrong side of town.

    Getting lost can sometimes lead to an adventure – depending where you are. Once, my ex-husband and I were looking for a lake near Acapulco, and instead ended up in a breathtaking untouched wilderness. Later, we learned it was the most dangerous place in the area,and not even the police ventured there.

    More often, getting lost can be frustrating and time-wasting. These days, if I drive somewhere I don’t know, I often get lost – even with a GPS. Not nice or adventurous lost, but nervous lost, and making stupid mistakes that take me even farther away from where I’m going, with the GPS squawking at me, and spewing out directions that I can’t follow. It’s not fun to get lost in crowded urban areas, or on freeways, or miss turns because you can’t cut across speeding traffic. It can be fun to get lost on foot or biking because you see many new or different facets that you would miss if you were driving.

    It depends on how you define “getting lost.”
    Penelope J. recently posted..Never Give Up on Your Dream

    • Hi Penelope,

      In depth response! thanks. Glad you saw that untouched wilderness and survived.

      Now that you mention it, there are various categories of getting lost: voluntarily getting lost and involuntarily getting lost. You wonderfully call them nice lost and nervous lost.

      Great for the essay I write to delve into these categories.

      What intrigues about this differentiation is why we feel so panicked when we do get nervous lost. What happens to us when we lose our bearings? Is it a loss of control? A real danger? Are we not taught to leap into the unknown?

      I’ve often panicked during the lost phase. Once I got someplace then the panicked dissipated. It can be frightening in our heads to get lost in an urban area because we’ve got most cities carved into safe and not safe. It’s a kind of prejudice that I’ve certainly fallen prey to, even to the point of turning around.

      One of the more fear lessening things I did was to take a design job in a more sketchy part of Boston. I imagined all sorts of driving horrors getting there. Yet, none of them materialized.

      I wonder do we keep ourselves weak by trying to keep ourselves safe? That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Things we consider unsafe, most folks in the world may consider super safe and it all becomes relative.

      I often think we are lost every day we live and just think we are found.

      I’ve gotten lost wandering, either physically or mentally. It can be good to get away from the routine of daily living that wandering can bring on.

      Feel free to add more on your thoughts. Really good to get down into the nitty gritty of our minds on this one.

      And so wonderful to see you back here!

      thanks, G.

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    > I’ve always loved studying maps
    I’ve learned to really appreciate a good map.

    So many times I’ve see how life can be a game of chutes and ladders and a great map is the short-cut.
    J.D. Meier recently posted..Living Your Values

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