It might not be the best part, but getting lost at some point during your travels is pretty much inevitable. But it’s not necessarily the end of the world, and as someone who has gotten lost (and then found my way again) multiple times while travelling, I have put together my top five steps for how to deal when you have no idea where you are!
1 – Prepare
First off, before you even have a chance to get lost, make sure you are prepared in case it happens. It’s just one of those facts of life, if you are travelling, you are almost guaranteed to get lost at some point. Even if you have a good sense of direction, when you are in an unfamiliar place (particularly if the local language is unfamiliar to you) it is easy to get turned around and lose your bearings. Luckily, in this day and age nearly everyone has a smartphone with access to google maps in order to find where you are. If you are travelling in your own country don’t forget to have your phone charged in case you need to use google maps at some point. If you’re in another country without access to internet then you can still download maps from google for an area you are going to be in. Even if you can’t see yourself on the map using GPS, it will usually be enough to help you find a street to orient yourself again. You can also download city guides and maps through the Trip Advisor app so that they will be available on your phone even if you don’t have internet. You could also download other useful phone apps such as google translate, Maps.Me and lots of others. Check out this post on Teacake Travels for a great list! And don’t forget the benefits of a good old-fashioned paper map! Often hostels and hotels have small ones (so you don’t need to feel like a massive tourist if you’re using it) available, so grab a few and chuck them in your bags.
2 – Don’t Panic
Ok, so you’re walking along, having a great time, when suddenly you realise, hang on; you don’t know where the hell you are! Realising you’re lost is often a cause for a panic attack but the most important thing you should do right now is KEEP CALM! Often enough, you’re only a little bit lost and if you keep your head and walking you will stumble back into an area that you recognise again. I have gotten lost this way, as in I know generally where I am but not exactly, and usually if I just keep going in the direction that I think a landmark is, or where I was headed, I get there. Unless you’re in the middle of the desert or the ocean or something (if that happens, this post probably isn’t going to help you!) just breathe, keep calm and;
3 – Review
Remember the prepare section up above, where you downloaded apps and maps and maybe even threw an actual paper map into your bag? Well now is the time to look at them! If you have internet access on your phone then the GPS on your phone will show you on google maps where you are. Easy peasy. If you’ve downloaded an offline version look for a nearby street sign and find that street on your map. Or use the paper map in your bag. Look up and around, see any big well-known landmarks? Head towards it. And if all else fails;
4 – Ask for Directions
So maybe this is stereo-typically only something a woman would do, but if you don’t have any maps and really have no clue where you are, it’s time to swallow your pride, stop worrying that you look like a clueless tourist, and ask someone for directions. Usually in order to make sure they are a local, or at least local enough to help, you’re better off going in to a shop or something. A random person on the street may be just as clueless as you are. There’s also always the chance that a shady type on the street might take advantage of you being lost, so I think it’s safer to go into a shop or restaurant and ask someone who works there. They’re more likely to actually know how to get where you want to go, they might help you by phoning a taxi or pointing you to a bus stop and at least they won’t be able to abduct you while in the middle of their shift!
5 – Embrace It!
Finally, remember why you are travelling in the first place. Is it to get out of your comfort zone, discover new places and have exciting experiences? Then perhaps getting a little lost isn’t so bad. How many stories and inspiring quotes are there out there telling us to get away from the mainstream and get lost in the undiscovered backstreets of the city (and of life)? The answer; lots. So keep wandering and see what amazing spot you might never have discovered if you hadn’t gotten lost! At the very least you’ll probably have a good story to tell about that time you got lost in the red-light district of Paris in the middle of the night (with no money) and didn’t think you’d make it back to your hostel in time to get your coach back to London the next day. Or maybe that’s just me.
* Of course, some places are safer than others, so always make sure you practice common sense when travelling, especially if you are alone.
Have you ever gotten lost on your travels? How did you deal with it, did you end up discovering an awesome hidden sight or get a funny/interesting story out of it? Let me know in the comments!