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Getting Lost Helped Me Grow

J.R.R. Tolkien once stated: “Not all those who wander are lost.” But, some actually are. I would count myself among those lucky adventurers who experience all kinds of great things thanks to their lack of an internal navigation system. I’ve tried to compensate for my lack of direction, but no good luck charm (or compass… or Google Maps) seemed to offer me a way out of the constant search for direction.

But as much as it can be frustrating sometimes, since my arrival in Tokyo (the first city I have ever lived in), I have learned how truly awesome being lost can be. And I’ve learnt how many good things you can pave for yourself, if you don’t follow any direction.

Some would say it is a bad start if you get off of the train at the train station, with both hands full of overweight luggage, no internet connection, no knowledge of the Japanese language and no clue where to go. Well, that was me. And since I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I just started walking and hoped for the best.

Let’s say it didn’t quite work.

After walking around for some while, I finally found the courage to ask a local if he knew where I could find my dorm. He did not, but was kind enough to bring me to the nearby police station. Since they did not speak enough English to give me directions (and saw my HUGE luggage-dilemma), they put me in their car and drove me all the way there.

So actually, my first day in Tokyo began quite spectacular – I’d never been in a police car before. One thing less off my bucket list!

Back in my home country, I wasn’t exactly what you call a great tourist guide, since I couldn’t even find my way to the supermarket without getting lost at least once. My friends were consequently a little worried when I told them I was going to study abroad in Tokyo.

getting lost signs

The (mis-)adventures did not stop with my police-taxi that first day.

Since Tokyo has an awesome complicated train system, it was inevitable to step into a train that would go the exact opposite direction. I often missed my lectures because of detours like this. Of course, I don’t want to encourage skipping class; but if you ever find yourself at a station in an unknown neighborhood I strongly recommend to take the opportunity and explore – after all, that`s a form of studying too, right?

There is something incredibly freeing with being unknown in an unfamiliar place and to wander without any destination. In my case, I was so fortunate not to have an Internet connection as well, therefore not even Google Maps could save me. I had to do this myself.

When you are completely on your own, sooner or later you are forced to ask for advice, to get back to where you were.

After I really got to enjoy the scenery of one of the lovely places I’d gotten “lost” at, I asked a person at a nearby café which line to take in order to get to my university. There, I learned communication has many ways, starting from a smile when you do not find a common language and continuing through the most unexpected ways – Google Translate, desperate drawing attempts, hand and feet… It all works.

Through all these series of unfortunate events, I learned how to loosen up and just go with it, and be grateful for every kind help I encounter along the way. I made it to my school eventually, with gorgeous pictures of the place I’d been to and cookies from the lovely barista (she even typed “good luck” on her phone, so I felt very encouraged).

getting lost japan

My awareness of my special talent to get lost made me study the most common phrases in Japanese. I had a feeling I would get lost again (which I did of course), but it made me learn some really useful words I can use in everyday life now. That’s the principle of “learning by doing”, right?

I lost my frustration a long while ago, and when I recently went to the airport and (you can imagine) got lost again, I didn’t panic. Instead, laughed about it to myself. After all, I need to keep the positive-surprise-effect for when I get somewhere right on the first try.

So, to all you lost souls, intentionally or completely by accident, you are doing absolutely great!

Through this constant search you not only learn how to find your way on the road, but also not to take life too seriously, because you know even with some detours, it always works out the way its supposed to – and if not, then you haven’t arrive at your destination yet. Put on your seven-mile-boots and explore, I hope to meet you along the way!

Photo Credit: Pexels

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Selina Auer

Selina is a19-year old girl from a tiny mountain village in Germany. She was born with a very strong sense of disorientation, which is why she is constantly following her gut feeling. So far it led her to a year abroad in Michigan during her High School Studies, volunteering in Israel, bag packing through Eastern Europe and now to Tokyo. If she`s not lost or on a dessert hunt, she is pursuing a Bachelor`s degree in Political Science at Waseda University. Her big passion is writing, travelling and to meet new people- and to satisfy her sweet tooth that replaced the space for her inner compass. Check out her instagram account and follow her on her journey!


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