Foto: Viktor Hanacek

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Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Lost

How do you plan your journeys? I mean, honestly? Are you a travel agency package holiday traveler? Or the group tour kind of tourist? I can understand that (well, part of me can, part of me can’t). It’s not always fun to plan a tailored journey. After all, it’s not just about choosing and booking some flight and some hotel. It’s also about designing your very own itinerary – without the help of a tour guide. And we all want our holidays to be well-planned, especially if we have limited time at our destinations, don’t we? Meaning that we have to research our own travel routes and decide on a schedule for sightseeing.

These are problems you don’t face if you book a package holiday. But is that package holiday really the last escape?

Why has journey-planning become so stressful?

The problem: For most travelers, their guidebook has been the only reliable source of information for the longest time. Which is good, in a way. It’s great that you don’t have to stick to guidebooks anymore. You can discover a destination on blogs and in magazines. Friends and relatives often have great advice tailored to your needs – just ask them! Novels and movies set in foreign places are a great source of inspiration and will definitely awaken your wanderlust. And let’s not forget the millions of beautiful travel photos on services such as Instagram, Pinterest or Trover. Eventually, travel bulletin boards do their very best to let the information overload swamp you.

And now, this is your part in the game: You write down all your findings. You absorb every tiny bit of (useless) information. After all, you are doing this for a reason, right? You want to DO and SEE all the things you now know about. Plus, you don’t want to experience your destination like a package holiday tourist – which is why you started collecting all that information in the first place. Congratulations! You have reached a point at which you have expert knowledge about your destination. You are a true insider – except that you still haven’t been anywhere physically.

Plus, there’s one hitch: Your schedule is running over and you don’t know where to squeeze everything in. If you are honest to yourself your holiday schedule is more stressful than your workload back at the office. At a certain point you realize that it will be unlikely to impossible to ever, ever, cross all items off your list. You don’t want to run from one sight to the next right?

Your plan was to take a holiday, not a boot camp.

Please don’t cry! You need to be strong now. Because there is a solution to your problem. But you probably won’t like it. Since it is: The ultimate guide to getting lost.

Mess it all up! Flush your plans down the toilet. Leave your books, guides, plans and maps at home (or at least at your hotel room).

Open your eyes.

Put on your most comfortable shoes and START TO WALK. Just walk. Get lost.

Let your eyes, ears, nose and heart be your guide. Granted: This works better in Paris than it does in Burkina Faso. But let’s assume that you are not in Burkina Faso. Let’s assume you are in Paris, New York, Cape Town, Cairo or in any other city in the world.

Follow the people that look likable to you. Talk to them, ask them for their favorite spots in the city. Believe in your instincts if you aren’t sure which direction to take.

And most importantly: Don’t be scared about getting lost. You can only truly get lost if you have a destination anyway. But your target is to delve into a foreign place as deeply as you can.

Even without any plan you will easily get around your holiday destination. I’m sure that there’s no better way to get to know a place. How is your travel guide supposed to know what you like, personally? Would it have guided you to that small grubby side street café that you discovered by chance and fell in love with? If it were listed in that guide at all, how high do you think is the chance you would have actually gone there?

Those who get lost have a much better chance of getting to know their surrounding. Which, by the way, isn’t true for cities only: A road trip, too, is more fun if you don’t plan and sketch out every single minute of it.

Where would you like to get lost?
Leave a comment now and tell me!

About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!


  1. I love getting lost. Honestly I’ve reached the point in travel where I don’t even do a lot of research before I arrive. I just want to be surprised and explore what a new city has to offer. You learn a lot about yourself when you allow yourself to open your eyes, live in the moment and appreciate what’s truly around you there. Nice article!

  2. My favourite part of travel is geeting lost, without a guide or a map and as a result finding all bunch of new places, I wouldn´t find with precise planning. I think this is also great way to forget our plans and maps and to feel the beat of the cities more troughly.

  3. This is such a great idea Anna! Especially for travel bloggers, as we tend to plan out everything in order to maximise our time someplace, and then it does sometimes end up feeling like a bootcamp (excellent analogy). But we’ve had a couple of times when we did allow ourselves to get lost and completely carried away, going wherever the road will take us (like the time we walked for 6 hours around Paris, with no destination in mind) or the time we landed in Melbourne and threw our itinerary out the window and let our local friends surprise us. Definitely something everyone should do!

  4. Love getting lost – you just find these little gems and experiences that can’t be seen in the main tourist hot spots. But then again at the same time I do enjoy seeing the locales – you would hate to go to Paris once in your life and then keep beating yourself up when you have to tell people you missed the Eiffel Tower.

    I think a bit of both makes a great trip.

  5. You are so right about getting lost!! At the beginning of my trips I always know at least a bit about the first 2 ,3 countries I would visit and have something like a plan. But after that…nothing, no research, I don’t even book hostels….So I just go with the flow, listen to what locals and other travellers recommend me and get nicely surprised all the time….

  6. Great post, I did a presentation at uni just after we returned from Japan entitled “Getting Lost On purpose” and spoke about the idea of just wandering and allowing yourself to find the unexpected, in not worrying too much about where you are but what you experience.

  7. I agree – so many people get stuck on these package tours full of people sitting on tour buses. When they should really just get out there and explore! It’s a great way to find food you never would have tried, make friends, and see things that other people (on tours) never get to see.
    I hope more people decide to get lost!

  8. Hahah! I love this, and it made me laugh because sometimes I am that person who wants to see everything in a certain city and even take some treks to see things outside the city! But I have learned that often times, I have the best and most memorable travel moments when I’m able let go of my plan and roam as I please. I think this is the best way to come across awesome, unique places, and I couldn’t have said it better- “Would the guidebook have led you to the grubby cafe?” No, probably not. 🙂

    • I think it’s only natural that we want to see as much as possible. But then again, what do we really see on a full day sightseeing tour? Nothing much. We are too busy taking photos of everything and moaning about the pain in our feet…

  9. Too true, Anna. Spontaneity, or at least room for it, can lead to something really memorable. Wandering past Matyas Church in Buda, one morning last year, we saw a sign advertising a performance of Mozart’s Requiem that evening. The choir and orchestra delivered a sublime performance in a beautiful church setting – and it was free. A magic bonus to our short visit to Budapest.
    I have to add though, that it is worth noting and carrying the name/address of your accommodation, just in case!

  10. I like that concept! Last summer I stayed in Bucharest for a long time. I didn’t take a city map (I’m crap at reading maps), but I just started to walk. Okay, confession: I didn’t walk far. What I did do was walking further every day. I didn’t get lost, but I did discover a lot outside of the guide books. Nice post! 🙂

Your thoughts are welcome!