I get lost. A lot.
That might not seem like a big deal to you, but as readers who followed my confessional series on the Big Five Personality Traits know, I’m highly neurotic and not particularly open to experience. That means that when I get lost, I panic.
Did I mention that I get lost a lot?
It’s the ambiguity that bothers me the most, I think. Being directionally challenged means that I lose my way often, and I hate that sinking feeling I get when I don’t know what to expect. I’ve met people who deliberately get lost — I repeat: on purpose! — just to see what they might discover. I shudder… but I’m also envious of that ability to surrender to the unknown without breaking out in a mental rash.
You can see how this little quirk of mine would sometimes be a problem when I was an expat. What is expat life, after all, but one long series of attempts to find your way in a new culture?
It was in Istanbul that I learned to relax and submit to serendipity. We’d decided to take a ferry ride — just an ordinary ferry, not a tour boat — to explore the Bosphorus. At first, it was lovely: the gentle motion of the boat, a crisp day, wonderful scenery. But as we sailed farther away from our starting point, I started to stress. The ferry showed no signs of turning back, and the theme from Gilligan’s Island began to play in the twisted corners of my mind.
A couple of hours later, in order to stave off Mummy’s impending anxiety attack, we hopped off at a little village where nobody spoke English. We were all hungry, so we found a café and pointed randomly at various unfamiliar items on the menu. Then, tummies full, we wandered around the sleepy village until the boat arrived to take us back to Istanbul.
It was twilight by the time we boarded the ferry, sore of foot and fatigued by all that fresh air. Watching the quiet beauty of the sun setting over the Bosphorus, I felt my earlier tension melt away. A deep sense of serenity gently washed over me.
It turns out that getting lost isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, in fact, it can be a tremendous gift. That day, on a Turkish ferry, I allowed myself to let go and see where the wind would take me. The wonder of it is that by losing myself, I found contentment where I wasn’t expecting it.