Get Lost!

Don’t take it personally, but yes, I do want you to get lost.

When you travel.

get lost, explore, travel


Some of my best experiences have happened when I’ve tried to get lost. Yes, I try to get lost. By this I mean we head out in a specific direction and take side streets, turns, etc., with no goal in mind other than to discover whatever we run into.

Obviously, if I look down an alleyway and the hair rises on the back of my neck, we aren’t taking that detour. But generally picking random streets leads to some wonderful finds.

For instance, in Hanoi we tried to get lost and ended up finding a restaurant where I had one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in Vietnam so far. In addition to that surprising and wonderful find, we found a very small temple. The caretaker was standing outside smoking. When he spotted us, he grabbed Tigger by the hand and drew him inside. “I match you!” he said excitedly as he led him past the courtyard. I smiled at my son who understandably appeared a bit anxious. I followed behind closely and tried to look reassuring to my confused child as I wondered what this matching was going to entail.

The man sat down at a table and guided Tigger to the chair on the opposite side. Wooden puzzle pieces lay on top of the table. The man opened a book and stabbed his finger at the image of a heart. Smiling he next pointed to the wooden pieces, sat down, and casually lit another cigarette.

get lost, travel, hanoi, vietnam

My son’s relieved blue eyes looked up at me for guidance, and I explained he was supposed to arrange the oddly shaped pieces into the shape of a heart.

He set to it, and it ended up being a wonderful cultural interchange.

It isn’t everyday you get to say you played a puzzle game while sitting in a Chinese temple in Vietnam.

We’ve also found absolutely wonderful parks this way. Simply wandering with no goal can be absolutely amazing.


I generally detest touristy areas, but some of them are worthwhile. Like the Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace, La Alhambra, and so on. Sometimes you just have to see some of the touristy spots. However, it doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire time there.

get lost, versailles palace, france, paris

Often you can escape the throngs of tourists by simply walking a few minutes away.

The tourist areas and eateries generally just don’t give you an experience of what the local culture is really like. When you spend most of your time there, you’re cheating yourself.

  • Pick a direction and just walk.
  • Take public transportation and get off at a random stop.
  • Don’t have a set destination.
  • Follow your senses. Do you see an interesting building in the distance? Head for it! Do you hear loud music? You might stumble onto something really fun and interesting. Obviously, following your nose can also reward you with a fabulous meal.
  • Lose yourself in the moment. Don’t focus on anything but your surroundings. Look for interesting angles or objects to photograph. Some people feel they lose a sense of being present when they’re behind the lens, but I find it makes me focus on things I may miss otherwise since I need to focus on shadows, light, colors, perspective, textures, etc.

This is even more fun when you have children with you. Some of our best conversations have occurred while we were just walking aimlessly. When kids are in the open, they often feel more free to talk about things and share. It’s so much less intimidating for them.

Getting away from the crowds also means your kiddo can jump, skip, hop, bounce, and so on. You get to experience your children in a fun light. We often run into animals that are safe to pet, and it’s so enjoyable to watch my son gush over the latest cute cat or dog. If their human is around, it’s also a great icebreaker. Who can resist watching a child giggle while playing with a kitty or pup?

get lost, essaouira, kitten, morocco

We’ve had some tremendous interactions with locals because we were away from the tourists and in a neighborhood that visitors often don’t pass through. Sure, the stares can get a little unnerving, but I find a smile and a nod or wave does wonders.

And it’s been these interactions that have helped me fall in love with a place.

Make sure to bring a business card from wherever you’re staying, or have the address written down or in your smartphone. This way you can grab a taxi or something and head back if you did a tremendous job of getting lost.

If taking public transportation, make sure you remember which stop you’ll want to return to. I know that sounds obvious, but I have managed to forget to make note of that sometimes. It might become a bit more of an adventure than you were hoping to have.

But I don’t have a lot of time!

It’s even more important to just get lost then. If you don’t have a lot of time to experience a place, having no destination will open up things for you that the tourist area just can’t. Even if you only have a couple of hours, you might be amazed at what you find.

get lost, essaouira, morocco

Did you ever get lost on purpose? What was your favorite experience?

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  1. yeah i think its the best way to travel!! lol. get off the beaten track and meet the locals!

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  2. I got lost in Istanbul and all the store fronts started rolling down…nothing open…anywhere!. Then a heavy rain came and 3 cabs turned me down for a ride! I was soaked, lost and frustrated!

    I found a wifi signal and posted to face book about my misadventure. My elderly Aunt in the USA saw this and got so worried she called the State Department!

    Unfortunately …they did not find me important enough to follow up, otherwise…it would be a better story!

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    • That stinks! I’m always surprised by taxis that refuse to pick people up. You’d think they’d want the money!

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  3. Great post! It’s something I always try to do. It frustrates the hell out of my husband in the moment, but he gets over it when we find surprising adventures.

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    • It’s so funny how many people are so reticent to do it. We’ve yet to have an issue, and the payoff has been wonderful!

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  4. I completely agree! I love getting lost while travelling – I usually do the ‘follow your sense’ technique. If I hear music, I’m there. If there’s some bright lights (that aren’t either fire or some kind of explosion…!) I’m there too. Great job on encouraging your readers to get lost too.

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    • Following the senses is such a fun way to explore! I’m always finding new, wonderful things with that method.

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  5. “Lost” in Naples, Italy was one of my favourite and tasty experiences. We got off the train at the ‘wrong’ stop and spent an hour or so wandering around a ‘deprived’ area. The sounds and smells were fantastic and when we eventually realised we were truly lost, we asked a man who had a fruit and vegetable cart if he knew anywhere we could have lunch (I did this in faltering Italian, while buying some fruit); he took us to this tiny hovel with electric wires hanging everywhere….we had THE best pizza and simple salad I have ever tasted, and some great interaction with the locals.

    I credit my dad with my longing to get lost. When we went anywhere, even if we had been a dozen times before he would always say,”Let’s see where this road takes us!” if he saw an interesting turning.

    My husband and I always just wander, whenever we visit a town or city, and it has given us great memories!

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    • Some of the absolute best conversations and teaching moments occur during our walks. He’s always pretty open, but get him outside and it’s even better.

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  6. It’s our favorite way to travel, whenever we have the opportunity. We got “lost” many times in Paris and always found the best little secrets!

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    • Paris is one of my favorite places to get lost. So many interesting finds just by turning down a street willy nilly.

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  7. I’m an advocate for getting lost as well! You learn so much more, not only about where you are and what’s around you, but about yourself as well. You have to trust! Trust yourself that you can get back to where you started, that not knowing or having a plan is perfectly fine, trust that being outside of your comfort zone is good for you… So much to gain from getting lost, it’s a strengthening experience and makes for the best stories and memories 🙂

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  8. The picture with Tigger and kitten sharing a look is the most precious so far, imo… ;~)

    What you say here reminds me that the most memorable times I spent outside the USA were the ones where I was not on the tourist-beaten path. Taking a picture of odd things along the way are great memory-triggers, too. When I think back, it’s those times and places where I strayed or had spontaneous conversation with someone who shared their time with me. It can’t be done when one has an itinerary and is locked into a schedule.

    Great thoughts, T.

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    • That is one of my favorite pictures. And it was even better since it was during one of our times getting lost in the Essaouira medina in Morocco. I love the look of joy on his face, even though it’s a bit hard to see because of the angle.

      Yeah, I am so not a fan of itineraries. I try to avoid them whenever I can.

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  9. As a kid my stepdad had the worst sense of direction and in all our travels we were always lost. I made sure that I would not inherit that trait but now I find that we actually *try* to get lost on purpose. So so true what you said, especially with kids.

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  10. When I was in high school, we used to steal my Dad’s ’72 Lemans and go get lost for the day in NYC- it was the best! 35 years later, i still love to do the same thing as you descibe (though i have left off with stealing cars). Open ended mystery destinations are great fun. Nice sharing 1 Dad and 1 kid 🙂

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  11. I love getting lost. We usually always do, most times not on purpose but those are the times that seem to be the most fun.

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  12. Totally agree!

    The best moments arise when you’re just wandering. It’s the best way to meet people, to glimpse genuine culture and daily life. And you can enjoy yourself so much more when there’s no set destination in mind, no itinerary you have to rush through, when you’re not constantly searching maps and guidebooks to make sure you’re on track.

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    • So very true! It’s also one of the reasons I do minimal to no planning or research before going to an area. I want to be surprised and not feel like there are all these things I *must* see. Besides I tend to get better recommendations from the locals, and that’s more fun as well.

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