I’ve never had the best sense of direction. Even in the town which I grew up in for 15 years there were times when I wouldn’t recognize street names and I would have to get out my Google Maps app to go three blocks from my house. Thankfully traveling has slightly improved this sense, out of necessity, but I am still no Christopher Columbus. Well maybe that would be a good comparison to draw because that guy landed in North America and thought he was in India. The point is that it doesn’t matter if you know where you are or not, these are a few tips that I have developed over extended periods of time traveling through Europe, America, and Asia and you can follow to make sure you never feel like you are lost.
To understand how to not get lost it is important to understand what makes us feel lost. Of course, not knowing where we are. Thats it. Case closed. But I make the argument that there is more to it than just that. So here are a few things that can add up to our feeling lost and helpless in a new place. Being lost is not so much fun so read these, take a few deep breaths, and then read them again.
- Being Rushed: When we are in a rush we develop this notion that every minute is precious and that the world will end if we don’t get where we are going, now. This leads to getting upset at the situation and at people who otherwise may have been able to help.
- Solution: Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going. Make a liberal estimate of how long it could take (minding that you are not familiar with the area) and then add another 30 minutes on as a safety net. Having plenty of time will keep stress levels down when the inevitable happens – aka something not going according to your plans. The great thing about this type of planning is that if everything goes smoothly, which occasionally does happen, you’ll end up with more time to explore the area.
- Feeling like you’re all alone: This can be a scary thing, especially when you quite literally are alone in a foreign country.
- Solution: You’re not really alone so don’t feel that way. Even when you don’t know the right way, there is likely someone in close proximity that does and is willing to help. Maps are great but the locals are better and you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself in an area where no one can point you in the right direction. You’ll have to develop some trust in strangers but a little goes a long way and like most things this gets easier with practice.
- Feeling Helpless: Sometimes a feeling of helplessness can sink in, often after being sent in the wrong direction or feeling lost for an extended period of time. We can’t read the signs, speak the language, and our map (if we even have one) might as well be written in another language.
- Solution: This is where I recommend taking a few deep breaths to regroup. Use some positive affirmations to reassure yourself that you’ll find the right way (because you will.) Maybe stop for a tea or a snack, you never know who you may meet but chances are someone will know where you are.
- Being Lost Forever: At some point in being lost it may seem like there is no end in sight.
- Solution: The unknown can be discomforting but keep the faith, you’re going to find your way with some persistence. No one has gotten lost forever in a city.
- Being stressed can add to all of these factors so my recommendation is to leave the stress at home when you travel. It weighs a lot and never pays for your beers.
Once your able to understand why getting lost can be so irritating than you can work to avoid the irritation. From following these ideas I have not felt lost once in the last 6 months. Yes, I have definitely been lost but it has always felt like an adventure and a part of the journey. Also, something that may be quite important to remember – HAVE FUN! Locals are great for directions but they are also people, so speak to them with respect, and maybe you’ll come away with a new friend in the process.
Here are some of Kathmandu finest and most outstanding citizens. Well, that may be going a bit far, but they were nice enough to help me find my way during the last month.
Leave the watch at home, time shouldn’t be something that we are counting down to the minute while we travel. Just know that the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening. It is easy to plan a day around those concepts and if you need specifics just ask someone, maybe you’ll make a new friend in the process. Smile, breathe, look around, and enjoy =)