Zen Travel Advice: Remember to Get Lost

The best experiences can't be planned.

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I recently traveled to San Francisco for some meetings and found myself with a half day to kill. My options: The 49ers’ first game of the season, against the Green Bay Packers. The America’s Cup sailing races. Or I could get lost.

After a horrendously long line at the car rental center, I was free. So I disappeared into the fog and clouds shrouding the Pacific Coast Highway and headed south with absolutely no destination in mind.

I drove through tunnels carved out of the mountains and stopped at a few state beaches; at one, I watched a wedding out on the cliffs among the crashing waves.

Back in the car, I drove toward San Gregorio, a town that you can easily miss. I know because I drove right through it and ended up on a pine tree–bordered ribbon of asphalt that felt like it would go on forever.

A few people milled around outside the San Gregorio General Store, smoking cigarettes and talking about the motorcycles they’ve owned over the years. Inside, I found a bar with regular patrons, a guitar duo, and, of course, a full-on store. I ordered a Pacifico, grabbed a seat, and watched the guitarists jam out. Then I congratulated them, threw a couple of wrinkled dollars in their bucket, and walked back out into the world.

The day could have been so different: crammed into a stadium or bar half-watching sports. But this was much more rewarding. Hours prior, I was on a flight with the masses, going through the motions. Then I was out on my own, having an unexpected and unrepeatable experience.

I learned something on September 8: Don’t be afraid to get lost—on purpose or otherwise—and have zero expectations. It will be good for you. I promise.

Have you had any similar experiences? Post in the comments below.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest