“What do you do when you get lost in a city?” is a question which many travelers are asked. I believe that getting lost is an integral part of traveling, and one of the best ways to really appreciate a new destination.
There’s not much to worry about when you get lost. You’ll usually know what city you’re in, and almost definitely which country you’re in. The feeling of being lost applies mostly to being on the wrong street, or not being able to find a certain building. In such a case, chances are you’re pretty close.
But sometimes that wrong street turns out to be the right street for something unique, local or truly amazing.
In Vienna, Austria, the main attraction is the central cathedral. Yet if you get “lost” down a side street devoid of tourists just a couple blocks from the cathedral, you’ll find another church with even more splendor.
In Ghent, Belgium, you can get “lost” in the small alleys of the Patershol district, where you will find some of the best restaurants and hole-in-the-wall taverns, including the Amadeus All-you-can-eat Rib Buffet, and the secret ‘t Velootje tavern.
In Bristol, George Town and Berlin, you can hardly walk down an alley without finding some amazing street art. In Skopje, Chiang Mai and Stockholm, you’ll find sculptures and statues everywhere. In Brussels, Torino and Barcelona, you’re apt to run into a group of musicians practicing with unique and wonderful instruments.
Whenever I arrive in a new city, I make it a point to purposely get lost, and to avoid using public transportation if the distance is not too far to walk. In cities where I’ve stay for an extended period of time (Edinburgh, Chiang Mai and Krakow) I try to walk down every street and alley to find all the hidden gems. These are the places which aren’t in the guide books, and aren’t frequented by tourists.
Just this past weekend, I went for an evening stroll before dinner. Aside from a gorgeous sunset, I saw fancy houses completely out of place in the rundown part of town I was in, dogs relaxing in the street, hippie cafes and classic cars. This was all within 10 minutes of my condo, yet in a location where tourists have never walked. You know you’ve found a good cafe when the only patrons are locals.
Now, getting “lost” without any way to find your final destination can be a little unnerving. There are three good solutions. The first is to keep walking until you find a landmark you recognize. The second is to return the way you came. Lastly, you can cheat and whip out your smartphone to use Google Maps. Just don’t rely on it too much in places like Venice and SE Asia. Don’t ask me why, but the satellites just don’t seem to work as well in those locations.
So the next time you find yourself getting lost in a city, just remember which city you’re in, and realize your on adventure. Have fun!