The Art of Losing Our Way and Then Finding Ourselves
This post is contributed by Deidra Razzaque, a SPS Featured Blogger.
Whenever I travel, I like to do things the local way if I can. I delight in seeing what daily life is like. Besides, this trip to Slovenia was about my own heritage, and I was excited to immerse myself in my family’s history.
Both of my maternal grandparents were from Slovenia, and I had grown up helping my grandma roll potica dough across the kitchen table and reciting the nursery rhymes she taught me.
Alas, by the time I found myself in Ljubljana, years after my grandparents had passed on, I couldn’t remember much of the language beyond po zdravje.
So when I decided to board a bus bound for a hotel outside of the city, I did so because that was how many residents traveled. I took it on faith that the address I had written on a yellow post-it note would be understood by the bus driver, and that he would graciously let me know when it was my stop.
At first the drive was fascinating. There were beautiful old buildings along the river, bustling cafes, and so many people to imagine stories about. But as the ride went on it was just…well, gratingly long. After a while there were only three people on the bus.
And then there were none, except me.
The driver began speaking loudly in Slovene and indicating that I needed to leave the bus. So I limped off the bus and stood alone on the curb, trying to breathe deeply, and remind myself that another bus would come along.
Another bus did come along, but it zoomed past me without stopping. Then there was a third bus. When I tried to board, the driver yelled at me and then quickly lurched into the throng of traffic. I admit that I shed a few tears.
Finally, a woman who spoke some English walked over and told me that I hadn’t been able to board the last bus because, as the sign in the window had clearly stated, it was headed for the garage. Marija and I laughed together, and then began talking.
Soon she and her mother had invited me for dinner. We had a great evening and struck up a friendship. I don’t even remember how I got to the hotel that night. Earlier in the day, I had been so certain that riding the bus would help me to understand something about daily life in Ljubljana.
But it was actually getting kicked off the bus–and being hopelessly lost and disoriented, that truly gave me that opportunity.
“Getting lost” is a strange way to think about it, really. It’s not that getting lost happens to us, rather, we lose our way. We intend to go to one place and end up in a place that is unfamiliar or disorienting. When that happens in the physical world, there’s usually a corresponding emotional jolt inside of us.
There are two basic states when we’re lost. We’re not enjoying ourselves, or we are. If we’re not enjoying ourselves, it’s usually because we feel scared of something that is happening, or because we are holding on too tightly to an expectation that things should be different than they are.
But when we are both lost and enjoying ourselves, the fact of being lost ceases to matter. We are open to new connections, we see the humor in our situation, and we feel a sense of wonder toward whatever is unfolding.
So what does this mean for you?
If you’ve been abroad and have now moved on to your next experience, you might think that you should have things all figured out.
Maybe you’ve taken a job or are studying, but now this decision doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe you miss the places where you lived or traveled before, along with the person you seemed to be when you were there. Maybe you are really, really wanting to enjoy how things are now, but find yourself ready to tear your hair out over the most mundane things.
What if re-entry is actually another getting-lost-adventure, and you are just about to find yourself again?
Dare to Lose Your Way
Live like GPS, street signs, and criticism at family gatherings were never invented. I know it doesn’t look like one, but this experience is an opportunity to calibrate your inner compass, and to learn what matters most to you right now. Your senses might start flashing their alert signals. Everything will seem more colorful, or maybe more muffled and dreamlike.
Try noticing what’s happening, rather than pining for the past or dragging yourself too quickly into your next experience.
Getting Lost Well Takes Time
Practice patience and slowness. Watch the landscape. Watch the way your internal critics are jumping up and down, tripping over each other to tell you which way you should turn. Dare to walk rather than drive. When you are lost on foot, there is time for your perceptions and your feelings to catch up to where you actually are.
You Will Have New Stories to Tell
Right this minute, you are uncovering resources, internal and external, that you didn’t notice before. Just when you think you can’t possibly manage another second in this uncertain situation, you will meet someone wonderful, laugh out loud at something that totally frustrated you yesterday, and feel like good things are blossoming in your life.
Enjoy the adventure that is NOW. And share what you discover.