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The Perks of Having No Sense of Direction

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Reading time: 4 minutes
Many travellers claim that the best way to discover a new city is by getting lost in its streets. I might have taken that a bit too literally…
yellow arrow road sign
Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldana | Unsplash

A cold February evening, I found myself in a rush to catch the tram that would take me home from the city centre. I’d been in this city for a few weeks already but I still needed to use Google Maps to find my way around. I jumped in the tram, relieved I’d made it in time. I sat down and looked out the window, enjoying the route home. Everything outside was dressed in snow - pure magic. I observed the people walking by, wrapped in their warm coats and scarves, I stared at the old buildings, imagining the families inside each apartment, staying warm behind closed windows. I looked at the trees and the endless fields right when the city ended and that’s when I realised: I was on the wrong tram, heading in the opposite direction!

credit: Alwin Kroon

I’d be lying if I said this was the only time I managed to get lost like that. I can’t count the times I’ve found myself going in circles or desperately trying to find the right turn or the right bus stop to catch the last bus home. The time I rode the wrong tram is a nice story now that time has passed. At the time I was rather angry with myself for not realising my mistake sooner - a mistake which left me stranded in the middle of nowhere, in the snow, until I found a way to get back to the city. Today, over two years later, I just wish I’d appreciated this random opportunity I accidentally gave myself, to admire the snowy suburbs of that Polish city.

Being someone who has a great tendency of getting lost, I have many stories to tell, similar to this one, but this article is not about all the different ways I’ve gotten lost in my life - it’s about learning to embrace it and to look at it from a positive point of view. I started trying to think of it this way when I realised that getting lost every time I’m in a new place - and occasionally even when I’m in a place I theoretically know well - is no coincidence. I have no sense of direction, I’m terrible at reading maps, even worse at folding them, and have managed to go the wrong way while looking directly at Google Maps and the little blue moving dot. If someone were to spin me around when I’m outside, I most likely wouldn’t be able to tell which way I came from and where I am supposed to go. I can’t avoid getting lost -  it’s part of me!

credit: Edan Cohen

At some point, after I’d already noticed this pattern in my travels, I decided to allow this strange habit of mine to be a part of my travelling routine. If I’m being honest, getting lost is still incredibly frustrating for me and I’d rather it not happen but since I can’t seem to avoid it, I thought I might as well try to enjoy it. So, after years of being unable to find my way, taking wrong turns and feeling confused, I’ve found some perks in having zero sense of direction.

You see, getting lost takes you places you’d never get to go to otherwise and even though this can go both ways, I like to focus on the times it was a good thing like the time I accidentally turned left instead of right and ended up in a beautiful park in Poland and got to pet a cute, fluffy dog I met there. Or the time I was walking around London and I missed my turn and found myself right in front of the theatre where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was playing, which, though I admit I’m not the biggest fan of the Cursed Child storyline, felt magical to see, even just from the outside.

The point is, when you have a “talent” like mine, you never know where you’ll end up when you try to discover a new place, and, maybe, that’s the best way to discover it. 

empty street between brick buildings
The Perks of Having No Sense of Direction

I feel like, sometimes, when you follow the wrong road and end up someplace other than the one you originally planned, you need to take a deep breath, look around and take it all in, the details of your surroundings, the sounds and the colours - it’s a random place at a random time, but it’s also where you are right now and, since you only got there by accident in the first place, chances are, you’ll never be able to find it again if you try. It’s kind of like finding Narnia in the back of your wardrobe - you can only find it if you don’t expect to find anything there.

So if you’re anything like me, if you confidently put your phone in the pocket, sure you have correctly memorised your route, only to end up on the other side of the city, if you can’t tell what’s north or south from where you’re standing, I invite you to make the most out of the next time you get lost. Look around you. If you have time, take pictures of the place you end up.