It’s getting harder and harder to get lost these days. It’s not easy to miss a turn when we have GPS devices and smartphones telling us where to go. From the comfort of our kitchen table we can map a route, ride roads we’ve never seen before and get home without a single directional hiccup. In a new place we can just download somebody else’s route and go where others have gone before. If by some chance we do take a wrong turn, the press of a few buttons will tell us how to get back on track. But what if, for one ride, we put the apps away, and instead of following the blue line, we followed our intuition instead? What could we gain by allowing ourselves to get lost?
The road less traveled
You don’t have to be blindfolded and dropped off in no man’s land to venture off the beaten path. It can be as simple as taking a few different turns on your regular route to see what might be around the bend. Your fellow riders may all be going one way, but haven’t you ever wondered what’s in the other direction? The new paths you take could lead you on an unexpected adventure, and getting lost close to home is a little less scary than doing it someplace completely unknown. Those “wrong turns” may become your new favorite routes and give you confidence to take more directional risks.
Ten minutes of internet searching will tell you about all the delicious restaurants or surprisingly well-stocked thrift stores nearby. The joints that used to be local treasures and are now packed all the time. Getting lost means stumbling upon the places where the bike racks out front are still empty, where they’re still flush with ironic 80’s rock band t-shirts and where online reviewers haven’t tasted and rated every dish. Befriend the owners, become a regular and keep your secret five star discovery all to yourself.
When you venture into the unknown you see things (waterfalls, animals, crazy houses!) that you didn’t know were there. You just have to pull over to take a picture because otherwise no one will believe you. When you decide to head home, being lost means learning about the history of a town while you ask for directions and taking a selfie with your new friends. It means making a pit stop at a neighborhood bike shop you would never have visited otherwise and instagramming the cool bikes they stock. The best part is that you get to come back with fun photos and stories that will captivate your friends and inspire them to get lost too.
Climb and seek
If you know where you’re going, you probably also know where the big climbs are going to be. That means you can save your energy and know exactly when to push. If you’re just taking the turns as they come, you’ll likely be surprised by a big hill, maybe even when your legs are already burning. Getting lost can help you push yourself beyond your limits because you’ve got to get over that hill to see what’s next. On the plus side, going up a hill you didn’t expect usually means you get to go down as well and who doesn’t love flying down a hill without worrying about where the next turn is.
There’s no guarantee that getting lost will net these results, but the possibility is part of the fun. Getting lost gives us a chance to slow down, to look around and to be surprised. Your regular route will always be there for you, waiting patiently for your return. Every once in a while it’s fun to put the maps away and follow your own path instead of following directions.