Lately, I can’t stop thinking about getting lost. Old fashioned lost, like the kind that was possible until ten years ago, when blinking blue dots took over our sense of direction. The kind of lost that social networking, cell phones, and credit cards don’t allow. The kind of lost where you have to rely on remembered landmarks, an internal compass, strangers, or the old paper map found in the glove box.
Listening to NPR this morning, there were two stories about being lost. The first was about an airplane carrying 239 souls that has simply vanished. As numerous countries join together to try to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, it seems a common sentiment is one of disbelief that, in this day and age, anything, much less an airplane, can just disappear. As I look at maps of the area being searched, next to the size of the plane, the scope and scale is mind blowing. Whoever was behind losing this airplane seems to have succeeded.
The second story was about apps that can be downloaded while traveling, to avoid getting lost; Rome2Rio and maplet. I was reminded of the time I arrived late at night in the jungle near Palenque, Mexico, and ended up finding a hammock to rent and the time I walked alone from the train station in Rome, hoping to find any hotel with a vacancy. I did.
When traveling, I find that the most important app or map is trust. There is only so much reassurance that the blinking blue dot on my iPhone can provide, when I am out of my element, away from all that is familiar, and vulnerable, as all those who travel are. I make sure to deposit coins in the shrines found in most Mexican bus stations, hoping the Virgin will help protect my journey.
Over the past few weeks, as I thought about getting lost, it was that idea of trust and vulnerability that kept reappearing. Perhaps it was because I felt internally unsure where my path was leading, but getting lost externally and having to give up any perceived control, keeping it about the journey rather than the destination, seemed more and more appealing. But, as I watch news reports about the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, I realize that the desire to let go of the map or GPS was partly because I didn’t believe that getting really, truly, completely lost was possible. It is frightening that it is. As the world searches for this plane, I, and all fellow travelers, will just have to trust that being slightly lost, vulnerable, and taking the scenic route is all part of the journey and that at any moment the course could veer in a direction we never could have planned.