For many people the idea of getting lost in a foreign place is more than just daunting, it’s terrifying. Most of the time you don’t speak the language, the maps are confusing as hell (All of the ancient cities tend to be a bit differently planned) and you don’t want to ask for directions because you’re afraid of the reaction you might get from a person. Many people these days use apps and smartphones to navigate but I can definitely say Siri or Google Maps is not great at telling me how to navigate the streets of Stockholm or Prague or Budapest so relying on a phone or an app, is probably not your best bet.
But here is my advice… GET LOST!
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost in cities I know and even cities I don’t know. Some of the most magical experiences I’ve had are because I’ve gotten lost. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was because I got lost trying to find a completely different place. Getting lost is scary but at the same time, it can be so rewarding.
The first major time I got lost was in Venice. Anyone who’s been to Venice know that the streets/canals aren’t well named (I honestly don’t know how mail gets delivered). I ventured off and was supposed to be back in San Marco Square at 6. I think my original idea was to head towards the old Jewish Ghetto in Venice. I had a map, I followed what street signs there were. I counted the bridges I needed to cross and how many left and rights I need to take. But at some point when I looked at my watch and then for a street sign, I realized I didn’t have enough time. So I started heading back in the direction I THOUGHT I came from. I was very wrong. Along the way I bumped into a group of people who were also trying to get back to San Marco Square. We all teamed up and went the wrong way a lot, but we finally asked some locals (the language barrier was a bit more than I’m used to). We met some really cool Venetians and found a really awesome gelato stand not inundated by tourists along the way. And I was be a bit late getting back, the gelato and the people made it worth it.
I’ve gotten lost in the US and abroad. I’ve gotten lost in Montreal. I’ve gotten lost in San Francisco (like was trying to go to Haight Ashbury but went to Oakland instead lost. I got VERY lost in Stockholm (I got off at the wrong island), but as long as you keep a positive attitude, getting lost isn’t half bad. You pass things you make mental notes to go back to. You stop in places you wouldn’t have had your route gone smoothly.
Getting lost is exponentially more fun than taking the path well traveled.