One of my favorite places in the world is being lost. I like being lost. There are of course different levels of lost and I will admit that being lost at night is not the best, or being lost with other people (for example, my family) is not a great deal of fun, and being lost in the woods is not something I would suggest doing unless you are filming one of those survival shows. Some might call the type of lost I am writing about wandering, but I like the term lost better.
I have been lost many, many times. There was a time when being lost made me anxious, but lost hasn’t killed me yet, although there was a time I nearly died while hiking around Mount Rainer, but that is less of a “lost” story than it is a “following the wrong trail” story. The variety of lost I am talking about is the type where you drop yourself somewhere unfamiliar and you begin exploring. Leave the maps behind and just let the day unwind, this is best done on foot and don’t get crazy and plop yourself somewhere dangerous, find a spot off the beaten path and begin drifting.
Entering into the world of wandering is a wonderful thing, too often people plan their trip itinerary down to the minute, I have been guilty of doing it, but if you really want to relax plan to get lost. For the really gifted traveler getting lost isn’t something that even has to be scheduled, it just happens naturally. It might be on a trip to wash a backpack full of clothes that you find yourself lost, or maybe you hop on the wrong metro train and find that you are suddenly miles from you planned destination, take a deep breath and accept the unplanned day as a gift from the traveling gods.
A few years ago I became epically lost (not quite as epic as Ulysses) in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. My intention had been to zip into the cemetery, get a quick picture of Jim Morrison’s grave for my son, and then spend the rest of the day on Montmartre. My plan had two major flaws: 1. I was using a guidebook with a very small map, 2. I was under the impression that everyone would be looking for Jim Morrison’s grave.
I gave up on the map after about thirty minutes, but I could not give up on the idea that following groups of people would lead me Mr. Morrison’s decomposed body. So for four hours I followed groups of mostly young people like I was a very large, conspicuous spy. Believe it or not, this very excellent plan did not lead me to find Jim’s grave, but I did find many graves of other pretty famous people. I ended up having a very good day of walking and reminiscing about the good old days when I worked in a cemetery for two summers. If I had found Jim Morrison’s grave immediately here is what I would have missed:
I eventually did find Mr. Morrison’s grave and I can honestly say that I liked Victor Noir’s much better.