When I was 19 and heading to Europe for 2 months, with my sisters 17 and 16, my Dad asked me on the way to the airport, if we knew where we were going when we arrived in Amsterdam? I replied, “Yes”, and pointed to an address in a book I was taking. He asked again, “But, do you know how to get there?”. To which I replied, “No, we are going to be lost the whole time we are in Europe.” This was long before there was such a thing as internet or cell phones, or GPS. We were going to be lost, but we had a goal, and we were sure we would find it, and everywhere else we intended on going.
That trip was wonderful, for so many reasons, one being that my youngest sister died the next year, and I am so grateful that we had that experience with her before she left, we didn’t know she was sick at the time. Even more importantly I suppose, was that we were brought up thinking we could do things, anything if we wanted to and that we should always try things even if we thought we might not be successful, because we also might be and would never know unless we tried. Once you have achieved something, gotten over a hurdle, whatever it might be it gives you even more confidence that you can do, overcome, create whatever comes up next.
I have travelled a lot since that backpacking trip in Europe. The last time with a rental car in Europe with three, GPS’s!! And with the crazy road system, or lack of road system they have there, more often than not, each GPS would give a different set of directions. There are many ways to reach your goal. For us on this trip, the journey was almost always more important than the destination, we wandered, and explored, as things grabbed our attention, taking time as we desired. It was a wonderful trip.
The friend I went with this time, her first language is French, handy while in France, but we also popped into Belgium. This made her anxious as she couldn’t read the signs, but as I said to her, basically on the highway the signs are place names, it didn’t matter if she had never seen them before. Basic traffic symbols are still the same.
While in Europe when I was 19, I knew a bit of French, but I was far from fluent, it wasn’t a subject I excelled in. Really I knew no other language but english and body language. We were in several countries where people didn’t know english. I recall the last few days when we finally arrived in England and we were riding the subway, when I glanced at some body’s newspaper and was so surprised that I actually knew what it said!!! Later that day while in the market buying groceries, I pointed at a tomato and held up 2 fingers, my sister looked at me and said, they know what a “tomato” is, LOL.
I recall us being in Germany and my sister needing a tension bandage for her knee, we went into a pharmacy to buy one, but couldn’t find one on the shelves, so we asked, in English, that wasn’t working, so we tried charades. Lots of laughs were had but eventually they understood and we walked out with what we went looking for.
A few years ago I took an “Interpreters” workshop, an all day class, there were about 12 of us. The first thing the instructor did was have everyone introduce themselves and tell us what languages they spoke. I still only knew English, a few words in French and Spanish, emphasis on a “few”, but I said I also know body language. Which as the instructor said is a large part of what communication is about. That was a really interesting workshop, even though I only knew the one language. I really learned how important it is for translators to translate “exactly” what the person is saying and not to paraphrase, and why.
I am trying to convince my friend to go to Italy next year, but she is afraid because she doesn’t know the language. I am trying to convince her that that is not a good enough reason. Again when I was 19 and in some small town in Italy, I approached a traffic policeman with my address book, could he tell me how to get there, I pointed at my book? He spoke no english, but he knew what I was asking he, he pointed and spoke in Italian, and gave me many directions. I went back to my sisters and they asked did I know how to get there now? No, I said but we start by going that way, and we will ask someone else down the road, where next we go. Off we went. The police officer watched, then he flagged down a bus, told the bus driver where we wanted to go, motioned to us to come to the bus, on we got, and off we went. A long bus ride and the driver dropped us off exactly where we wanted to be.
Have faith, people in general are very kind, and helpful if they know your goal. Yes, in some countries, you shouldn’t ask just anyone for help, shopkeepers and police are good bets pretty much anywhere. Truthfully most people are amazingly helpful and a smile goes a long way.
Being lost is not necessarily a bad thing at all if you have a destination in mind. Fearing getting lost is definitely not a reason not to try and get to a destination a goal. That goes for life accomplishments as well. If you want to learn something, get somewhere, do something and are not sure how to get there, just start moving that direction and ask people for help along the way. And, don’t forget to smile, and thank people that help you get closer.
Grow, take a chance, your life can be so much richer because of it.