on getting lost

yesterday morning i was waiting for a bus when i noticed two very small children (the oldest couldn’t have been older than seven) get off another bus that had just pulled off and walk past me. my “morning thoughts” brain just took it and ran. things like, “wow! i can’t believe they are so young and traveling across town to school by themselves!” you don’t really see that in america.

it got me thinking of when i was a wee lass and one day, had to ride the school bus to the next elementary school, get off, and walk to the middle school for a pottery class. this walk couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes but it was a big deal.

getting lost as a child, even in the grocery store, was always a very large fear and scarring experience. to be left and alone. to take a wrong, unfamiliar turn and have no idea how to get back. unlike the children of today, nobody had mobile phones to fall back on as a comfort. for years, i even took the school bus home all the way around my island hometown which took a whole hour, even though i lived maybe a mile or two away from the school, at most. (looking back as an adult, it seems incredibly silly, but children’s minds work differently) if you were lost, that was it – you were lost. a crushing fear.

that day as a nine year old, i crossed a crosswalk (alone! unaccompanied!) which was across the street from the middle school, and a car cruising along had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting me, just a few feet from where i stood. hello, real world.

it’s funny that progression of being young and so scared of being lost, to young adulthood. driving. taking a wrong turn, but finding your way on your own, turning around, trying another street or exit. suddenly getting lost isn’t the foremost concern. the first time in a major metropolis with only a map to guide you.

then there is that one time where you get lost and realize it isn’t actually so bad. this happened to me one fateful november night in prague which i’ve written about before. it was my second time in the city over ten years ago, trying to make it back to my hostel alone at midnight, from old town to the edge of

žižkov. if you know prague, you might imagine how that particular stretch (through florenc and the area beyond

hlavní nádraží) isn’t the most inviting or pleasant in the middle of the night in a largely unfamiliar city.

but then, it started snowing, casting a certain magic on the bleak proceedings. suddenly, it was a time i knew i’d surely remember. being sort of lost didn’t seem so terrible after all.

the final step, taken usually by seasoned travelers, but also by adventurous or apathetic types, is the sensation of wishing to become lost.

i have to cite prague as another example of this, as many surely know, it’s quite a wonderful city to find yourself lost in, particularly in the mazes of old town. when you haven’t got any money and nothing but a whole lot of time, it can be quite wonderful to head into old town with only a vague goal (or perhaps no goal at all), and wander down the most inviting street you see. what’s the worst that could happen? we often play this little game when we have an hour or two to kill in prague.

what lovely things you might find! such as an unbeknownst to you david

černy sculpture. maybe a new cozy

čajovna, like we found ourselves at last winter.

the experience then hinges upon the getting lost. only then, you have achieved “getting lost nirvana”.

after a couple minutes, i noticed the two little children, whose bravery i had quietly admired getting off the bus alone, walking past me going in the totally opposite direction. i couldn’t help but feel a little relieved after that whole outpouring of thought; the reflecting upon my own experiences alone and confused. even czech kids get lost, i guess.