The art of getting lost

Princes Street Gardens

It’s often good practise to be aware of one’s surroundings. However, I propose that it’s good to stop paying attention every now and again. When I moved to Edinburgh for my Masters, I wanted to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. I wanted to go out and see the world, so to speak, in a way that I had never done before. Honestly speaking, I wanted to live my life like it was a film where I was the curious protagonist who stumbled across fascinating places and intriguing people.

This article is about exploration and how to realistically step out into your surroundings (from the perspective of a university student at least).  Here’s how I did it; I hope this can aid you in your own mini quests for adventure.

Step One: Leave your house

I appreciate that some people are “homebodies”. What that means is we have a natural inclination to stay at home unless something motivates us to leave. This is not to say that homebodies don’t like to go out for a night of fun or to take walks but, more often than not, our idea of a good time is to have people over for a night in. It is to this group of people that step one is mainly for. It’s important to strike a balance between staying at home and actively trying to study your surroundings. Granted, with Covid-19 it is rather difficult to go out and about the way we usually would have or the way that we want to. However, it is still very possible to do so while still staying safe and adhering to the restrictions as best as possible.

Step Two: Put Google Maps away

We’ve all heard that the best part of an adventure is the journey and not the destination. There are so many places to go that Google Maps will not recommend, and that is why I implore you to forsake the app altogether and just trust the process. I encourage you to have a general idea of how to get back home, but it is inexplicably fun to navigate based on spontaneous decision making: if you feel like turning right, then turn right; if the straight road is the one you wish to take, then take it.  There’s something liberating about trusting your instincts rather than mapping out every step of your journey Most people try to reach their destination as soon as possible because they’ve walked that road before. When you know where you’re going, there is a tendency to take familiar paths and never really realise what’s around, especially when it comes to exploring a new city, or even one you’ve lived in for a while.

 I have nothing against pre-planned city excursions, rather, I’m just trying to encourage at least one spontaneous one. I also have nothing against Google Maps; it has helped me find my way around more times than I’m willing to admit. It’s just that mapping an unfamiliar route tends to mean your focus is on your phone screen rather than on your surroundings, which seems like such a waste.

Step Three: Find yourself somewhere new

Granted, this might be easier said than done depending on how long you’ve lived in your area, however, it’s not impossible. There’s always something to see or somewhere you’ve never been. It could be a picture-perfect spot, a scenic area you can just sit and think in, or a hidden coffee shop in the back of an unfamiliar alley (proceed with caution on that last one). The idea of this article is to just wander around and let yourself stumble across something new. Romanticise at least one day of your university experience and see what it feels like. I ended up by a river when I did this (I love taking walks by the river) and it genuinely added to my university life.

The great thing about “the art of getting lost” is that you don’t even have to go on this journey by yourself. You can play the mysterious solo adventurer or take a friend, a family member, or even a pet! The possibilities really are endless. As we draw to the end of the first semester, it may be time to schedule in a day where you just take a break from your assignments and see what’s around. Who knows, maybe by the time new year comes around you’ll have a new spot to look forward to next term.