I have just returned from another trip to England and like I always do when I travel anywhere, I did my fair bit of wandering and exploring whenever the opportunity arose. I’m reminded of an incident from when I first travelled to England many, many years ago. Late one evening, a friend and I decided to do a little bit of sightseeing. By the time we were done and ready to head home it was dark, and after we had walked a couple of blocks we realized we had absolutely no clue where we were. We were very lost. Suddenly the formerly quaint town we were in, with its cobbled pathways and Victorian architecture became a menacing labyrinth of narrow alleys, lanes and by-lanes we had to carefully maneuver. It really could not have been later than 10:30 or 11:00 pm but we might as well have been roaming in Terabithia because neither of us had any clue about where we were.
Finally, after a bit of panic and what do we do now’s, common sense set in. we picked a well-lit direction and walked confidently into the light, as each tried to assure the other with some cautious-optimism. Finally we began to see landmarks we recognized and we were able to guess our way home.
I’ve been lost in other cities since then, but I distinctly recall the pangs of fear and trepidation of being lost for the first time, without ID, money or anybody to call for help. Nowadays, I know better than to panic. Walk on till you find your way out. In all the countries I’ve visited since, I always find an opportunity to get lost.
There’s something so liberating about discovering new routes or an old wooden bridge when you least expect to. Turn a corner and there’s a new jewel to be found – a stately sculpture, a street-performer, a farmers market or even the beauty of a quaint home-styled café that welcomes you as you rest and take in your experience. These experiences bring a kind of soul-satisfying joy (if you have a bit of wanderlust) that a map or brochure simply cannot bring. On my travels, I’ve often found that the best way to discover a place is to wonder aimlessly and see what eventually comes your way.
People have different ideas of what constitutes fun on a vacation, I get that. But there are some things a guided tour doesn’t show you and certain joys a website cannot express. While in the Farncombe county of Surrey earlier last month a taxi driver mistakenly took me down a wrong stretch of road. And while there was a brief moment of worry, I soon had this panoramic view of the hills, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that wrong turn.
Maps, plans, itineraries are about knowing for sure, about owning your path, about control. That’s a good thing, or else you could end up in a bit of a mess in a strange place. Direction is important but what’s equally important is throwing away that schedule and allowing yourself the freedom once in a while to not know where your next wow moment is coming from.
Life is like that too, sometimes not planning things still lead you to exactly where you’re supposed to be. NO?