23 Ways to Get Wonderfully Lost
Not just lost, but wonderfully lost.
This might be a phrase you’ve heard or read pasted on many travel-related pictures across the web, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of cheesy travel quotes, I do have to say that the words ‘wonderfully lost’ resonate with me.
I’ve previously written about digging deeper with travel, and finding ways of immersing yourself in a city or place, but I’m often still asked the same question.
‘How am I supposed to do that?’
While there is no black and white method of making a conscious effort to travel deeper, as much of it falls down to personal preference, there are a few ways that can help to enrich your experience on your next trip. Getting lost, in the traditional and out-of-the-box sense of the word, is just one way you can find something out of the ordinary as you travel.
Here are 23 ways to give the beaten path the middle finger.
1. Loosen up
Probably the most important concept when it comes to getting wonderfully lost – you need to let go of the wheel. If you’re worried about not knowing where exactly you are in a place, and preoccupied with constantly being in control, you may find it difficult to lose yourself to travel and let it lead the way. Relax, and combine a carefree attitude with smart decision-making in order to still stay safe.
2. Ditch the map
Once you’ve got your bearings in your new destination, leave the map at home. This is especially simple in a city with a decent transport system in that you’ll always find a nearby station to figure out where you are if you need to. Having your eyes constantly strapped to a map will distract you from being present in the moment. Just go for a stroll and see where it takes you.
3. Be curious
Getting lost is almost impossible without curiosity. If something flicks a sensory switch, go and explore it further. Always ask questions and pay attention to the answers.
4. Get off your smartphone
Life begins when you lose reception. While it might be tempting to share your experiences via social media or find the best app to help you explore the city, take a break from life online and use some more traditional methods of travel. It may be a challenge, but it will certainly be a valuable one.
Hopping on and off public transport will give you a disjointed view of a city. It might take a bit longer to get anywhere, but try to walk to wherever you’re going, whenever you can. You’ll discover all sorts of goodies along the way, as well as clock up some exercise.
6. Take time to use your eyes
Taking photos is one of the best ways we can preserve our travel memories, but sometimes we take photos more than take time to observe something with our own eyes. Leave your camera at home for just one day, and use your sight to really take in a place. I like to make sure I look up as I walk, and absorb the tops of buildings – it can often be the most beautiful part of a street scene, an excellent way to wander.
7. Hire a bike and ride cornerless
When exploring a new place, we often fall into the traps of stomping the same ground over and over again, because it’s where you find the most popular attractions. To remedy this, find a place to hire a bike, and play the game of only riding in one straight direction. A fool-proof wayof finding parts unknown.
8. Let your stomach be your guide
This is one of my favourite ways of exploring a city. I normally base my day-to-day exploration around what I fancy eating for lunch. I pick a cuisine, search the web for a well-rated and priced spot in which to eat it, and do minimal research about the surrounding area. Eat lunch, walk, get lost, repeat.
9. Lose the research
Speaking of research – ease off the guidebooking. While it’s good (and necessary) to research things like safety for the destination you’re visiting, try not to take too deep a look into all the must-visits – it’ll help you find the never-visited. Talk to people around you, stroll and see what you might stumble on, and don’t worry so much about not seeing every museum and monument.
10. Explore with a local
Passing the reins over to someone who knows about a place far better than you do is a great way to get lost in more ways than one. I recently explored Warsaw with a local, and as we strolled the streets I had no idea where I was – but was present in every moment. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t sure of my exact location, because with a local I was comfortable and had someone to point me in the right direction when we parted. Something to try at least once on your travels.
11. Be distracted
Distraction is usually seen as negative in the average person’s working life, but travel is a time when you can wholeheartedly welcome it. Find joy in discovering a place on every whim you have at any given moment – flicker from one thing to the next as it catches your attention or takes your fancy, and don’t worry about the consequences (because you don’t need to).
12. Listen to the city
Travel is a time where focusing doesn’t have to be a priority. Often when we’re focused on one thing we drown out the noises of everything else in order to complete that task. As you wander through a city, keep your ears pricked for the sounds around you. If you hear music down a nearby alleyway, follow it. If you hear the noise of a crowd not so far away, divert your route to find the source.
13. Take a tour and bail halfway through
To take a tour is pretty much the opposite of the travel philosophy I’m talking about, but there is one way you can work touring into this mantra. Hop on a free walking tour, and as soon as it leads you to a neighbourhood you like the look of – walk away. This is an easy way to find something new without the research.
14. Get out into open spaces
Without gridded streets and signposts, open spaces are one of the easiest places to get lost in. Find the biggest park in the place you’re visiting, and stroll into, through, and around it. If you get too lost for your liking, walk in a straight line in one direction and you’ll find its borders soon enough.
15. Pick your destination wisely
This article would be irresponsible without a word on safety. Pick a city or place that’s safe enough for you to wander through without stumbling upon a neighbourhood you don’t want to find yourself in. Failing that, just make yourself aware of the unsafe spots and where they’re vaguely located, and avoid ambling through them by mistake. For those a little uneasy about completely carefree exploration, pick a city with a gridded street system – the formulaic city planning will make it easier for you to relocate yourself when you need to.
16. Never retrace your steps
While it’s tempting to visit one place and take the same route back to your hotel, it doesn’t do you any good for finding something new. By never retracing your steps, you’re doubling your opportunities of finding something unique and different.
17. Jump of at a random station on the subway
Pick a subway line, hop on it, get off at a station that takes your fancy. Explore.
18. Listen to your intuition
Fine-tuning your intuition is one of the great gifts you can give yourself for travel. Not only can it get you out of a sticky situation if things go wrong, it can also lead to adventures beyond your imagination. As you take a walk around a new place, use your senses coupled with intuition and judgement to find the heart of the action.
19. Wander without time limits
Needing to be in a certain place by a certain time is the perfect way to kill a day of natural exploration. It’s inevitable that you will have days with time constraints, but give yourself at least one day in a city to stroll without the pressure of needing to be elsewhere at a certain hour. It’s rare in normal life that we have the opportunity to do this, so take it while you can as you travel.
20. Don’t focus on reaching one spot
There may be one museum or gallery that you absolutely do want to see in a new place, and that’s fine, but don’t bee-line for it there and back. Take off the blinkers and enjoy the journey to it, too.
21. Avoid planning ahead
Even though travel without route planning isn’t everyone’s jam, sticking to a strict routine can sometimes suffocate your experience. For the ultimate in freewheeling, head to the bus or train station, check the departures board, and get the next transport out of town. No plans, just travel.
22. Talk to people
One of the key concepts of travelling deeper is to be present by talking to the people around you. Not only will it keep you fixed on current space and time (as opposed to the online world, for example) you’ll find all kinds of recommendations from locals and people who know this place better than you do. With them to chat with, there’s no need for a map, phone, guidebook, or direction.
23. Travel boldly
Letting go and getting lost in travel can be scary. It takes courage that is developed over years and through a lot of experience, but the second you do have the gumption to get lost, you’ll find yourself in the most surprising of places. Trust in the people and places around you, and travel with your head screwed on, and you’ll stray in the most satisfying way.
Take a risk, and embrace the adventure.
Do you enjoy getting wonderfully lost?
Would you add anything to this list?