I’ve come to the conclusion at this stage of my life, that getting lost is a natural and, I dare say, necessary part of life’s journey whether it be getting lost in the city, lost in the country or lost in the direction that your life has taken. Getting lost usually has a negative connotation; but I think getting lost has gotten a bad rap. I mean it isn’t ALL bad. Take Moses for example; after forty days and nights, he became a spokesperson for the Big Guy and had several movies made about him. And how about the two dogs and the cat in The Incredible Journey? Their trek was beyond incredible, but were it not for getting lost, they’d just be three stray animals. (Stay with me here.) Here’s another one–Henry David Thoreau. He actually went to the woods to “lose” himself in thought to discover the essential part of life. It seems to have worked out well for him.
Where am I going with all this? Well, I’ve been on this wonderful adventure with my best friend Gloria–a 192-mile, Coast to Coast hike across England. Let me just say, it isn’t for sissies, and if we make it to the end, we’ll both feel like Wonder Women. For 3 weeks, we’ll hike 5 to 14 miles every day. The first section is through some serious mountains where one mile can easily take an hour because it’s straight up the peak.
So far, on each of the first two days we have managed to get lost, costing us several hours of additional hiking time and miles. Because of my many past experiences with getting lost it really didn’t phase me; but, considering we still had 16 more days of strenuous hiking, I began to give some more thought to this getting lost business.
Day one’s detour was strictly our own fault, for not seeing the well-camouflaged sign marking the trail. (Much of the Coast to Coast is not really an obvious trail but more of a suggested one, with some occasional signage near points of civilization.) After hiking about 6 miles on the cliffs of the Irish Sea, we came to a T in the road. We knew we weren’t supposed to go left, so we turned right onto the paved country lane going right. About a mile down the road we became concerned that we hadn’t gotten to the next landmark already. We flagged down a car to seek assistance, and after several minutes of confusing conversation with the driver, Gloria said, “Wait. Can you just show me on this map where we are right now?” Unfortunately he wasn’t so sure about that. We pretended like he had helped us–just to be nice–and he drove off. We then used the GPS app on Gloria’s phone, to determine our exact location. We hadn’t wanted to use her phone before because the battery was almost dead and we still had a long way to go. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We ended up having to trudge back up the hill to the intersection in question where we found the sign that pointed us through a field. A 9-mile day had turned into eleven.
Day Two. It was raining when we set off for the next part of the hike. Almost right away we came upon an Australian couple and a man from the Netherlands also traveling the C2C and going as far as we were for the day. Gloria and I encouraged them to go ahead of us because we like to take our time, but we kept them in our sights so we’d know where to go. We caught up with the three of them about 15 minutes later as they stood conferring over a map at a 3-way intersection in the woods. As we walked up to them, we asked, “Which way?” The Australian guy pointed to the middle path with a fairly steep ascent. “This will take us straight to the top,” he declared with confidence. Together we all starting climbing. After about 1 1/2 miles, however, the trail abruptly ended. Gloria and I plus the three others hovered around her GPS and realized that we needed to go back down to the intersection and reassess our direction. Once there, we got back on track by taking the fork to the left. We had managed to turn a 5-mile trek into 8.5.
So, here’s what I have concluded so far about the business of getting lost.
1. It happens. And it will happen again, so take it in stride and enjoy the scenery.
2. In order to get “unlost”, you first need to know where you are. This is true, not only for a hiking or driving trip, but for your career path, relationships, where you live, etc. Taking stock of what’s right and what’s not right in our lives will allow us to determine the changes needed to get back on the right path.
3. Don’t blindly trust anyone else to know the right direction for your life-even if they seem REALLY sure.
4. Once you realize you’re lost, stop going in the same direction. Make a change to alter your course.
5. Maybe we need to practice getting lost on purpose, so it won’t seem so scary or daunting when we feel off-course. My dad used to do this on Sundays after church. We’d pile into the station wagon, all seven of us kids and my parents, and he’d start turning on gravel roads in the countryside just to see where we might end up. Hey, we always made it back home.
Finally, even though taking the wrong path can be disheartening (and a bit embarrassing), we can always learn from it. Take tomorrow, for instance, I can guarantee you that Gloria and I will NOT be turning a 13-mile day into 16. I hope.