There’s no right or wrong way to travel. When it comes to visiting a new city, we prioritize what we want to do and see. But how you go about doing that can mean the difference between an average trip and a life-changing one.
To make it a trip you’ll never forget, you need to forget about all the planning you normally do and try getting completely lost along the way instead.
While it might sound crazy, having an open-ended travel itinerary can expose you to experiences you never even imagined would come your way. It can also save you a lot of anxiety: As anyone who’s ever traveled to another city before knows well, all the planning in the world doesn’t mean you’ll be able to stick to your itinerary once the messiness of life comes into play.
So, why not try a different approach next time you venture outside of your hometown? There’s nothing wrong with doing your homework before checking out a new city, but there’s also a lot you can gain from throwing caution to the wind and diving headfirst into the unknown.
Here are five reasons why you should intentionally get lost in every city you travel to.
1. You get a feel for the different neighborhoods – not just the busiest ones.
It’s easy to travel to a new city and never step foot outside of its most popular neighborhoods. But just because something’s crowded doesn’t mean it’s the best a city has to offer.
Just ask New Yorkers how often they visit Times Square.
But getting lost in a city lets you see firsthand how its different parts form a unique whole. You see how one neighborhood transitions into the next, each with its own tastes, smells and sights. It paints the kind of vivid picture you don’t get by strictly following an itinerary.
2. You see the people who actually live there.
What makes a city great? The people who live there, of course.
When you get lost in a city, you see how locals go about their daily lives: The stores they own, the places they shop, the ways they talk and the foods they eat. It’s by observing them that you realize how you’re both alike and different.
Wandering around gives you the freedom to see how a city works on the human level.
Because you’re not rushing from one place to the next, you can sit on a park bench and take it all in for a while. You can even strike up a conversation and ask for recommendations from the people who know the city best. You might even be exposed to unfamiliar cultures and new types of people that you can learn and grow from.
You won’t get that personal touch if you don’t leave some things to chance.
3. You stumble upon unexpected places you’d never see otherwise.
Sure, it’s great to knock popular tourist attractions off your to-do list. But if you’re following a rigid timeline, you’re closing yourself off from the possibility of seeing the city’s hidden treasures.
Allowing yourself to get lost, however, gives you the opportunity to come across places and things that you’d otherwise have missed. You’ll shop at the small mom and pop shops that remind you of home; you’ll walk into a bakery with the best pastries you’ve ever tasted; you’ll see the types of landmarks that locals love and frequent.
You’ll get an alternative view of the city, one that you can’t find online or in a guide book.
4. You create a travel guide that’s uniquely yours.
There’s nothing wrong with checking out guide books other people have written. But there’s something pretty special about making one yourself that no one will ever be able to replicate.
Spending the day getting lost in another city lets you take as many twists and turns as you’d like. You’re calling the shots as you go; you’re winging it in a way that only you can.
At the end of your trip, the path you took has your unique stamp on it. There’s a good chance you probably won’t even remember how you got from one place to another, or what streets you walked.
But you will remember one thing: No one has or will ever replicate the route you took. It’s 100 percent yours.
5. Your phone is always there to bail you out if you actually get lost.
The very idea of getting lost is enough to send some people into a spiral of anxiety. If you’re one of them, just remember this: You can always use your phone to get out of a tricky situation.
After all, wandering around a city doesn’t mean you’ve trying to create some sort of puzzle that needs to be solved. There’s nothing that says you can’t be lost in a new place if you’re still occasionally checking whether you’re headed toward a new part of town or a neighborhood you’ve already trekked through. You don’t have to go completely off the grid just to go off the grid.
What about those times when your feet are killing, you’re starving or you’re running late to meet someone? If you’re lost, how can you save yourself from certain doom?
One word: Uber. Chances are, the driver knows the way back to your hotel.
Compensation for this post was provided by Discover it® via Elite Daily. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Discover it® or Elite Daily.