Don’t Be Afraid of Getting Lost

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Zocalo - Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico

I tend to have a really great sense of direction and seldom get lost, which is why as I stood there in the Zocalo of Oaxaca unsure of how to get back to my hostel my first thought was “so this is what getting lost feels like”. Frankly, not so good. I had headed out from my hostel with such confidence that I had not even brought a map or the address of the place. Not realizing that there are two main squares offset by a block, I lost my bearings. As I was walking all the shops closed so all the landmarks looked different on the way back.

Getting lost may be among the biggest fears (well technically getting lost and then murdered in a dark alley or sold into white slavery) for those who travel in large groups or who stay home. But some of my most memorable travel experiences have happened when I got turned around.

Istanbul, Turkey

I had arrived on one trip to Istanbul at night as a solo traveler. I was trying to get to my hotel using only a small insert map from the hotel created by someone who, I found in retrospect, did not know that by convention North is at the top of the map. Soon I was winding through the twisty streets behind the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) and was clearly lost. I stopped at a carpet store that was open and the shop owner dropped what he was doing, called my hotel for directions and personally walked me to within sight of my hotel. The most amazing part of this experience, if you know Istanbul, was that he did not try and sell me a carpet on the way there.

Venice, Italy

I have had to ask directions from a gondolier in Venice to find a very out of the way hotel. But Venice is a city that you cannot explore if you are not willing to get lost in the back alleys and canals. It is surrounded by water so you just have to convince yourself that “lost” is not a permanent condition. The gondolier did not know how to explain how to get to the hotel through the different alleys so he just grabbed my bag and told us to follow him. Did we look for him later when we wanted a gondola ride? You bet.

Arusha, Tanzania

I have wondered into a local market in Arusha, Tanzania trailing the rest of my group who thought I could probably find my way back. We were so far from where the tourists go that one member was able to reconnect with the group because when people saw him they would point in the direction that we went and say “wazungu” (white people). There a local vendor sold me a stalk of sugar cane for a coin worth so little that you wonder why they bother minting it. “Taste Africa!” he cried out to me and I did by wandering a bit off the beaten path.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

One Response to “Don’t Be Afraid of Getting Lost”

Jason Hull


It was the phrase “let’s get lost!” which led us to the adventure where we got taken to the wonderful church service that we described in the Barbados episode ( I love being in a place where you can trust actually getting lost – some places I’d never do that – and trust yourself to find the adventure that awaits within.

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