I am a relic. I have read the travel blogs and there is no doubt of it. I do not have a GPS or even a particularly smart phone. I do not twitter. When I travel I find my way with a map. If I need a room or a place to eat, I do not consult an app or cloudsource or invisible friends on facebook, but use a guidebook or ask people standing around who look like they might know. (Once, in Athens, I asked the old Greek fellow sitting next to me on a park bench where a barber shop was. He seemed baffled. I wondered if I were mispronouncing something. I eventually realized it might have been because he was bald.)
I like to travel this way. I enjoy being surprised by what lies around the corner of the street as much as around the next bend of the river. I enjoy being lost.
the gentle Pleasure of Being Lost
One of the pleasures of being Elsewhere is that I am to some extent lost, cut free from the bonds that sprout up from my familiar, everyday world and curl their restraining tendrils around me, and of course the more unfamiliar the place the greater this sense of freedom, and headiest of all is being completely lost.
I once traveled on business. Our office was in California and, being a small non-profit and of necessity thrifty, we would try to see as many people as possible on our trips east, which would involve a complicated itinerary with a number of short hops between cities. And people’s schedules would change and then I would have to make changes in my schedule and the whole thing could become very confusing.
For this reason I was not disturbed when I woke up one morning in a nice hotel room and realized that I had no idea where I was. (And it was not an alcohol-induced blankness, as I was a sober and business-like traveler.)
This was not the normal confusion you might feel on first awakening, but continued as I shaved and dressed. The room -- nicely appointed -- offered no clues and the view out the window was of a generic small city.
I realized that I liked the feeling.
I could call the front desk, of course. I was sure that every so often they had guests call down to ask where they were, but I found the whole thing entirely too pleasant to end it so prematurely. I was sure that if I had an early appointment that I would have set out papers for it, and I was far enough into my trip that my printed itinerary was no longer reliable.
I decided to wander downstairs for breakfast. The newspaper at my door was the Wall Street Journal, so that was no help, but I knew that in the lobby I would see the local paper and my gentle fog of unknowing would go away.
I walked down the hall looking for an elevator and saw, framed in a tall window, the stainless steel Arch. I was in St. Louis. A nice enough place to re-enter reality.