Today I ran across a post by an award-winning travel writer sharing tips on how to get lost on purpose that triggered a slew of memories. It was almost like one of those end-of-life flashbacks in films, with distinct scenes from some of my favourite trips from the past 15’ish years instantly playing in my mind. Some were snapshots of amazing monuments when they first came into view, while others were unforgettable and special experiences or moments in time.
Most of those memories that flashed before my eyes were from times when I purposely set off to get lost or to blissfully ‘wing it’ while exploring a country. Until I read that National Geographic Traveler piece today, though, I hadn’t really thought that much about getting lost as a rule. Nor had I connected those dots to my favourite travel tales, but I see it all quite clearly now.
The first time it happened was back when my now 20-year-old daughter was just 8 years old and we went to spend Christmas and New Year in Africa. Still to this day I haven’t travelled with a tour group but on that trip to Tunisia it seemed like the surest way for a mom and daughter duo to safely travel the country so I had pre-booked one for us. However, once we arrived we realised we’d have to wake up at 6am every day and travel in a way that sounded like hell to two chilled travellers! So on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel we agreed that we were backing out of the tour. With a French and Arabic phrase book in hand, and a sense of adventure, we decided to rent a car and explore the country on our own. Over the course of 9 days we rode camels in the Sahara, explored Roman ruins & the castle where Life of Brian was filmed, danced in the New Year, and got ridiculously (literally) lost almost every day. And each time we did, there were always very friendly and kind locals who were happy to help guide us back on the right path, going out of their way most of the time to do it, too! Here are a few photos from that fun trip >>>
Go On! Be an Explorer
So why get lost on purpose and leave a day (or more!) of your coveted holiday to chance? I think it’s all about how being a true explorer enhances the experience. There is something about doing the unexpected … or in this case, the unknown … that triggers a supercharge of emotions and makes travel memories somehow bigger or better at times. Perhaps it’s the added sense of mystery but what’s for sure is that being an explorer heightens all of our senses and the result on our memories is wonderful.
When you think about it, it does make sense. If an activity is planned it’s easy be excited while you’re doing it, yet it’s highly unlikely that those activities will TRULY surprise you because you already basically know what’s coming. You’ve researched it, seen pics, probably read a blog post or review, and you’ve either figuratively or literally already bought a ticket.
Imagine instead that you have no idea what’s going to happen next or what you’ll see. Maybe the end result won’t be as grand as the other things you plan to experience during a trip but I guarantee you that you’ll remember those unexpected surprises with more clarity. To top that off, you’ll have some crazy adventurous stories to tell everyone back home about that day you decided to get lost in Venice!
One of my favourite memories from that Tunisia trip was when we were lost in the middle of nowhere and ended up on a family farm. The men must have been out working because when we stopped the car and pulled out the map to ask for help we were greeted by only children and ladies – from babies to grammas. They spoke zero English or French so I tried to speak Arabic but in the end hand gestures and pointing did the trick. As we were leaving I pulled out my very first digital camera and took a few photos and showed them to the family. Well, they had never seen a digital camera before and that turned into a wonderful moment of laughter and squeals of delight, which then turned into an invitation for my daughter to pet their baby sheep. It still puts a smile on my face to this day.
I know that not everyone is comfortable or happy at the thought of setting aside time to go get lost but the truth is that I think everyone should. John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It would seem the same is true when you’re travelling.
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