Friday, April 22, 2022

Let's Get Lost

Yes, Chet Baker sang that song and no, he didn’t write it (Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser did) and yes, I played it with a singer at his Saturday night concert at the poetry retreat and yes, I found myself singing it while wandering about Lecce’s Old Town. Even though the song is more about “getting lost in each other’s arms,” it works as the  anthem of my preferred style of travel. 

My whole life I have felt the presence of unseen hands, the mystery of serendipity, the kindness of strangers and it has been in my travels that they have come forth most boldly. From my early hitchhiking days to last night’s post-dinner stroll in Old Town wandering and wondering how to get out back to our place. 

By refusing the GPS or even the paper map, several things happen:


1) That delicious sense of being slightly lost, but with low stakes— no place we have to be at a certain time, no danger, no sense that we are so hopelessly lost, we will never find our way out.


2) A reason to talk to people and ask directions and go through the pantomime of rudimentary Italian (us) and rudimentary English (them). The pleasure of connecting, their pleasure in being helpful, our pleasure in being helped.

3) The possibility of finding things that you never would have intended to find, but had something memorable to offer. That sense of things finding you.


4) The affirmation that though the world can kill us just as soon as guide us, it often lends its hand when we open ourselves to our vulnerability, our heightened sense of paying attention, our willingness to abandon all the planning and plotting and insisting that we know every step we’re about to take and just relax, enjoy, let go— and see what happens. 


And in my experience, it’s usually something delightful. Like stumbling into the perfect lunch-place yesterday in Old Town with local vegetables stuffed in pita bread. Then the perfect lunch place today in a village we got to through detour, the woman bringing the hand-written menu and pointing to plates and steering us toward the mashed fava beans and wild chickory vegetables, all of us feeling the love and pride for what she had to offer. We arrived there simply by driving without Siri and following signs, taking wrong turns and sometimes continuing and sometimes turning back, because like jazz, there are no “wrong notes” or “wrong turns.”


Last night, my wife uncharacteristically looked up a restaurant choice online and tried to steer with her phone to the place and it felt like another form of travel altogether and one I was not enjoying. Sometimes, of course, it’s fine, but as for me, I agree with Chet Baker:


“Let’s get lost.” 

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