Traveling With Technology and the Lost Art of Getting Lost

Personal technology, in more and more forms, is finding its way into many a traveler’s pack. And they should be, they’re important and innovative tools. A smartphone with travel apps can be very useful for figuring out what’s to do in a neighborhood and helps keep you connected to fellow travelers and friends, a GPS can get you out of a bind and a Kindle will give you something to do with all that free time on trains, planes and automobiles (but not while you’re driving, thanks). However, overuse of them can lead to a lack of ever finding yourself utterly, completely and hopelessly lost.

“But wait, oh wise wordsmith. You’re suggesting getting lost is a good thing?

I am indeed, valued reader!

While I always recommend bringing at least a good map with you on a journey to a new place (and always when you’re trekking outdoors, as it’s one of the Ten Essentials), relying only on offerings of eateries and exhibits found in a travel app and never wandering off-course from your phone’s GPS means you never get the chance to serendipitously happen upon an interesting discovery of your own. Travel apps on a smartphone, such as TripAdvisor, can be very valuable troves of information and reviews of a sight, an exhibit or a restaurant. The same goes for travel guidebooks loaded onto a Kindle. But don’t be a slave to reviews – they may not be written by travelers with the same interests and needs as your intrepid self.

A semi-lost ramble through Trastevere, Rome led to the discovery of the best sandwich of my Italy trip

I am, of course, a huge fan of tech – but I also know the value in occasionally turning it off. Become one with being lost, young grasshopper, and you will find something eventually. Walk around a neighborhood, stray a little and pop into a place that looks like it may be promising. Sure, you’re taking a chance – and I don’t recommend getting purposefully lost in a neighborhood that just doesn’t feel safe – but I’ve discovered many a great find abroad without putting all my trust into the words of other travelers, following my instincts and asking locals. Side benefit of that last one: You get to meet locals!

Written while listening to: Help, I’m Alive – Metric, Fantasies

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About Alex Fitzpatrick

Alex Fitzpatrick is Homepage Editor for Time.com, also covering technology, policy and cybersecurity. He previously covered politics and policy for Mashable. Fitzpatrick has a degree in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he also served as News Director and Station Manager for the campus radio station, 89.3 WGSU. Follow Fitzpatrick on Twitter at @AlexJamesFitz or email him at alex.fitzpatrick@timeinc.com.
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