OPINION: You don’t truly know your home until you’ve gotten lost in it

Drawing of a person walking over arrows pointing in many directions
(Clare Martin • The Student Life)

When was the last time you were lost? Did it stress you out? Probably. But there is real merit to being lost.

Nowadays, we can almost completely eradicate the experience of being lost with the rise of Google Maps and the virtual world we are so embedded in, but in losing the opportunity to be lost, we lose a sensation of discovery.

During the pandemic, I, like many folks, began to take (perhaps excessively) long walks nearly every day. The music and podcasts I listened to cast a protective shield around me as I walked the cold, icy streets, my feet carrying me miles through the city. I lost my sense of direction for blocks at a time, then would spot some familiar landmark in the distance, and I would blush inwardly, satisfied at knowing my way. Despite spending over 18 years in my neighborhood, the pandemic taught me that I hadn’t really known my city until I got lost in it on those lengthy, ambling, purposeless evenings.  

Upon coming to Claremont, I’ve found myself missing the space and time to be lost. I’ve been here for most of a semester and hardly know this town; I’m only slowly gaining a hypothetical sense of my placement within its larger geography. I need to go out and get lost a little bit to make a map of this place for myself. 

What would it look like for you to go and get lost? Maybe walking miles alone in the evening scares or bores you. You can create this same sensation by losing track of your surroundings in some smaller way — lose track of time, go forth without direction or purpose, even if just for a few minutes. 

This idea is not a new one, but I’d like you, reader, to pause and consider it again. There have been many proponents of the aimless walk before me — one only need read Henry David Thoreau’s charming, though haughty, essay “Walking.” Then there is the line from Robert Frost’s poem “Directive,” which I think of often: “And if you are lost enough to find yourself.” More recently, I’ve been reading about being lost before bedtime. In her wonderful book, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost,” Rebecca Solnit writes that “To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.” Later she writes, “Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.”

These authors — and many more — have found a certain solace in the enlightenment of being lost. With our busy, spilling-over-the-brim, compromise-laden collegiate schedules, we walk a carefully plotted path and are seldom lost in our quotidian routes. Perhaps the only time we feel lost in the day is down that rabbithole of our phones — be it Instagram, TikTok, or, dare any of us admit, Yik Yak — but these devices in which we lose ourselves are the very things that have nearly obliterated the opportunity to wander, directionless. Being lost within the internet does not accomplish that same semblance of losing track of the stresses and structures which envelop us in order to access another part of ourselves. 

Getting lost within and outside of ourselves is a crucial means of understanding both place and self. 

Willa Frank PO ’25 is from Cambridge, Massachusetts. She enjoys petting every dog ever on Marston Quad and professing her love for New England to no one in particular.

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