Getting lost on your travels: A good risk to take

On our walk to school this morning, my son told me he knew three different ways to get to school and he would never get lost. He’s right; even at six, I’m sure he could navigate quite a few varied paths between our home and his school, about a kilometre away. Our current favourite involves a walk through a huge park and, after crossing the only busy-ish road, a stroll through the protected bushland* and then through the green school grounds. Aren’t we lucky?

Getting lost on your travels

Getting lost when you’re travelling

We will never get lost on our familiar walk to school, but when we travel, well, it tends to happen quite regularly. I don’t mind that – and in fact, as I’ve lamented before, the fact that the internet and smart phones and GPS and all this fancy stuff exists these days is really a bit of a shame, because it’s actually harder to get lost now. Oh, I still manage it pretty often though, don’t worry.

When people talk about their fears of travelling, many will say that they’re really worried about getting lost. If you’re in a foreign country and particularly one where the written script is different, this is a very legitimate concern, and it could well happen – but is it really that terrible? I reckon that 99.9% of the time, getting lost is not a bad thing at all.

A quick list of times I got lost …

This could be the longest post ever because I am not a fabulous map-reader, I struggle with directions and I’m not particularly observant of the kinds of things you should look at so you can find your way back somewhere, but I’m just going to summarise a few of my favourite getting-lost moments:

  • In eastern Osaka, there was a particular department store building whose layout was very confusing (I think, anyway) and every time I visited it, I would come out the wrong entrance and be unable to find the train station. I would go back into the store, walk around a lot and try again. I probably went there a dozen times during my two years in Japan, and never once did I manage to avoid getting lost. I did, however, get to see all kinds of weird and wonderful sections in that store. (Japanese shops are amazing!)
  • Once in Vladivostok, eastern Russia, my below-average ability to read the Cyrillic alphabet (I mastered it by the end of a few weeks in Russia, but this was on the second day) meant I took a bus intended to go into downtown Vladivostok and instead ended up somewhere up a hill in the middle of nowhere, and the bus dropped me off at the end of the line and just disappeared. There weren’t even any locals around to help. I did have a lovely stroll overlooking the harbour at Vladivostok … for quite some time … before I finally found something resembling a bus stop going in the other direction and managed to get back to where I started.
  • Not mine, but it could easily have happened to me: when my then boyfriend and I went to California to visit my mother, who’d just moved there from Australia, she lived in one of those commuter suburbs we see on TV, where every house looks exactly the same, and the house numbers range into the thousands. My boyfriend went for a jog on our first morning there and on his return, hot and sweaty, had to knock at several doors before finding the house where my mother lived! But on the plus side, he got to meet some of her neighbours, and he made us laugh.
  • When climbing down Mt Fuji, I was meant to join up with our bus group to get back to Osaka. Unfortunately the instructions for which part of Mt Fuji to climb down had been provided in Japanese and I managed to go down the wrong side. That was quite exciting! Fortunately some friendly Japanese people at the bottom of the wrong side offered to call the bus company for me and because they were friendly Japanese people, they came and picked me up from the wrong place.

Oh goodness … I could go on and on for a whole book here. But I won’t. Are you starting to see my point, though?

Getting lost on your travels is worth the risk

I’ve interviewed a bunch of people for The Thoughtful Travel Podcast who’ve also told me their tales of getting lost, and guess what? They all ended up with a great story to tell. Sure, there were some moments when they were kind of terrified, but mostly there were times when they met amazing people who helped them. That’s my experience, too.

It’s easy to stay home because there are things about travelling which worry or scare you – because when things are new and different, they can be frightening sometimes, and the thought is fair enough. But although I also have these thoughts, I strongly believe that the benefits fair outweigh the risks. Getting lost isn’t something to worry about – I think it’s usually something to embrace!

Just the same, because travel does have risks, the people at Southern Cross Travel Insurance want me to remind you – and I completely agree – that travel insurance helps even out those risks. It’s a cliche to say “don’t leave home without it”, but it’s totally true. Although getting lost has never led me to an insurance claim yet – just to lots of interesting stories to tell – I have had to use travel insurance for emergency dental work and when that terrible airline lost my luggage – and while getting lost is worth the risk, travelling without travel insurance isn’t.

Your tales of getting lost

Where have you been lost on your travels? Do you have a good story to tell? Hit me with your “getting lost” tales in the comments!


*People from outside Australia keep asking me “what’s the bush?” so I’ve written a whole post to explain about the Aussie bush!


  1. Some interesting stories about getting lost Amanda. Apart from getting lost in department stores too, I can’t remember ever getting lost on a trip.

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