Going Mapless

Sunday I got lost. Only I didn't.

It started with an itch. En route to visit my family in McMinnville, Oregon, I didn't want the old familiar highway with its traffic stops and brake lights and impatience. I sought the long, quiet alternate route I barely remembered. It was a road I learned to drive on nearly twenty-five years ago, learning to take curves at the proper speed.

That's how I found myself weaving and dipping over long, swoopy hills. Mapless. I hoped to know my way by feel. I had never paid attention to the road names, only the trees and farmhouses. Now things have changed, and I couldn't be sure I knew what I knew. I turned right when I should've stayed left. I bore south (or what I thought was south), and the miles stretched on. Finally, a couple signs looked familiar. There was Tile Flat Road, and Scholls Ferry, and there was the exhilaration of hilltops and shady pines, and a sense I could find my way onward.

I read somewhere that taking an alternate route is good for the brain, creating new neural pathways. Certainly I could feel that. The sun was shining, and the farms were green and lush, and circuits were firing in my thoughts at some deep level. By contrast, always going the way I know holds no thrill. There is no adventure, no challenge, and I'm not calling on my instincts or inner resources. I'm not doing anything different. Left here. Right here. Yeah, yeah, same old thing.

Sure, there's no risk of getting lost, if I go the way I know. But there's no chance of finding new beauty, or recovering a long-buried treasure, or being surprised.

When your heart calls out for a new way, take the chance. Go ahead and get a little lost.

By car or foot or bike, take a path you aren't sure of, perhaps one you almost remember. By pen or brush or song, push yourself to a place of hope and risk.


  1. I often go mapless, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. I never worry about getting lost because it's not as if I could end up in anywhere other than Washington or Oregon, and how hard could it be to find my way back? If I do, I really have traveled too far. I've been lost in Montana, where the roads don't seem to go anywhere in particular and one turn in the road can mean my the length of my trip just doubled. I never avoid trying a new way because I never know what I might find on the unexplored route, either on the road or within myself.

  2. Monique, I love how you said that, and how you described, "an unexplored route, either on the road or within myself." Wonderful!


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