Around the end of winter every year I get restless and long for the open road. I dream of far-away places and getting on buses bound for elsewhere. This year, I reminisce on adventures past, and on one of the most fundamental components of travel: getting lost.
I remember wandering the avenues of Vienna, map in hand, meandering down streets simply to discover what was there and ending up far from where I had started. Getting lost isn’t so bad as long as one has a map; maps grant their owners the freedom to roam without the fear of never being seen again.
There was one free afternoon on a 10-day bus tour through central Europe when a couple companions and I decided to venture out in search of the aircraft museum we had been told was somewhere in the city. Having obtained directions from a tourist center, we set out on our quest. Two hours later, after much bickering, walking, confusion over public transportation and more walking, we reached our destination. The museum was in the middle of a business park miles outside the city. Lucky for us, it was an impressive exhibition of all kinds of planes and the like and was well worth the effort of getting there. The return trip was much easier.
I had the pleasure of taking a class during my semester abroad which involved field trips to historic and cultural destinations in Vienna that were relevant to the course material. The last of these outings took us to some fairly obscure points of interest, and by the end of class, I don’t think any of us knew quite where we were. But our teacher, a native who knew the city like the back of her hand, thought nothing of it and proceeded to do what she had done every other day, gaily saying goodbye and leaving us to find our own way back to the school. It took our combined efforts to get there, but eventually we managed it.
Sometimes getting lost can be fun, or at least interesting. Other times it is nothing short of character building. On a recent road trip I learned along with my companions that the Ozarks are not well-endowed with road signs. The intrepid traveler must soldier on over miles of winding mountain roads with little certainty of being in the right place. We had to double back more than a few times when at long last we had reached a road marker telling us that we were not where we had intended to be.
I myself am a poor navigator. On one memorable occasion I turned what should have been a 10 minute drive into 50 minutes because I got stuck in a maze of one-way streets downtown, only to get lost in another place after escaping the city. On the bright side, losing my way doesn’t faze me anymore. No matter where one ends up, one can always turn some other direction and rediscover a familiar path or find something unexpected and amazing. When I am restless, I dream of getting lost; within uncertainty lies adventure.