I love maps. Off the top of my head, I can think of about 30 cities that I have visited outside of the US. And in each one I love to study the maps, looking at the thin white ribbons of streets winding around these unfamiliar lands. Taking on the puzzle of a new city is simply one of my favorite parts of traveling. In fact, I’m doing it right now, in my hotel room in Edinburgh. But recently, I’ve become addicted to getting lost. While traveling with my parents all throughout my childhood, we would always be oriented and in control. They were on top of things, and I picked that trait up off of them. But then I went to Florence with a friend for one summer, and my whole philosophy of traveling changed.
A few times a week in Florence, we would go out to dinner. We would ask our instructors for directions to different local restaurants that were off the tourist path. One night took us particularly far away from the apartments. The four of us got there without too many problems, but ended up being disoriented on the way back. Wandering down a cobble stoned street with no visible signs, I heard music in the distance. So the four of us looked at each other, figured we had nothing to lose, put the map away, and decided to follow the music. We ran down alleys that we had never seen before, laughing with giddiness at the spontaneity of our actions. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the Piazza della Signoria in the middle of a huge public concert. We spent the rest of the night dancing in the square instead of just going home. If we had actually managed to get the directions right, we would have missed out on my favorite experience of the summer.
So now I love to get lost. There’s nothing more exciting than exploring a new place and stepping off of the beaten path. When I’m lost, I get to go where I want to go and do what I want to do instead of listening to what a piece of paper tells me is right. When you don’t have to follow directions, you get the chance to follow your heart. Wandering on my own in Edinburgh, I discovered an amazing antique shop, a creepy old graveyard, and a random little university pub—all things that wouldn’t make it on a list of major sightseeing attractions, but things that showed me the quirks and real character of the city. Right now my mom wants to go walking around the university. So we’re heading off and I’m pretending to know exactly where I’m going, but in reality, I don’t have a clue. And that’s just fine by me. No, actually, that’s perfect.
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