The Game of “Getting Lost”

Confused Yet?

I had the day off from work today (Columbus Day in the US) and since it’s been unseasonably warm lately, I decided to jump in the car, go for a drive, and “get lost.”

“Getting Lost” is a game I began playing with my friends back when I first got my driver’s license. The rules of the game are very simple:

  • Pick a direction and start driving
  • Whenever you have a choice of which way to go, go the way you have never been before (or the way you don’t know where it goes)
  • No turning around (unless you can’t go any further)
  • No using maps (or, these days, GPS)
  • Always come to a complete stop at all stop signs

OK, so that last rule is a bit of a gag rule from when I was young and still learning to drive properly – but hey, you’re supposed to do that anyway, so it’s a good reminder.

Basically, the idea of the game is to get lost on purpose – to go places you’ve never been before, and (eventually) make it home. The idea is that at the end of the game, you’ll have learned about the ways you’ve driven.

While it helps to have a good sense of direction (as I do), it’s not absolutely necessary. Although if you are the type who gets easily lost, you might want to bring a GPS or something similar. You can’t use one while you’re playing the game, but you can use it once the game is over and you want to go home. (The “Go Home” button on many GPS units is wonderful for this.)

This was a great game for me and my friends to play when we were all learning to drive – after all, it helped us learn our way around in a time when GPS didn’t exist, and all you were likely to have to help you navigate was maybe a street atlas (if you were lucky).

Learning the lay of the land and which roads went where was a handy skill to have back then – and it’s still a handy skill to have today, even with GPS being so common that many cars have it built right into the dashboard, and many phones have some sort of GPS or GPS-like capability built-in as well. (It was also a handy skill to have since the state I lived in at the time – Massachusetts – is not exactly known for having full street name signs on every intersection!)

Of course as time goes by, the longer you live in one place, the harder it is to really “get lost.” But this is part of the fun as well – it becomes more and more of a “challenge” to find someplace you’ve never been before.

Fortunately for me, I now live in New Jersey, and although I’ve been here for a few years now, New Jersey is a bigger state than Massachusetts (EDIT: actually, technically it’s not bigger – it’s smaller – but gosh darn it, it feels bigger), and there’s also nice big states bordering it (New York, Pennsylvania, etc.) which means there’s lots of potential places to “get lost.”

Even though I’m much older now, I still love playing this game. You never know what you might find in some out-of-the-way corner of the world, and honestly sometimes it’s just nice to go for a drive, without necessarily having a particular destination in mind.

If you are ever bored or are feeling the itch to go exploring, and you have access to a car (or motorcycle, if that’s your thing), I highly recommend picking a direction and just start driving, and as that old poem says, “take the road less traveled.”

Photo credit: RobStone, via Flickr.

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.