The Serendipity of Lost

It only counts as ‘lost‘ if you intended to be somewhere. Our notion of lost is outdated: originating in a time when losing your way in the forest was a deadly affair. Today, as i explore Bangkok for the first time, getting lost is an asset. Or at least it is until my phone battery dies.

Grand Palace Bangkok

New cities can be bewilderingly complex: with no concept of where the main routes lie, where the interesting views are to be found and where the best places are to eat, you’re out on a limb. Transport mechanisms can be confusing: how do you negotiate the price for a Tuk Tuk? How do you buy a ticket for the MRT, how do you figure out where the buses go?

I like to start gently: take a cab somewhere that looks promising, then just walk.

Yesterday, the cab failed to take me where i wanted to go (the Grand Palace), but instead, en route, provided many complex reasons why we couldn’t go there, and dropped me by a bridge down the river, still a couple of miles from my intended destination. On the plus side, i was no longer at my hotel, but on the downside, i wasn’t at my intended destination.

Negotiations with some market traders revealed a boat service upstream, the sharp prowed boats cutting through the choppy waters by dint of bolting what appeared to be a truck engine to the back to drive a propeller. Noisy, powerful, fast. Although it felt like even odds whether the structural integrity of the boat or my back gave out first.

Grand Palace BangkokAfter some time, i was deposited at a market, then walked to the palace. So far so good, and a thoroughly enjoyable trip. After temples and gardens, ice cream and culture, the time came to make my way back, but instead of hailing a taxi, i decided to walk. After half an hour of quiet streets, i found myself in the biggest flower market i’ve ever seen: the electric light picking out a whole street, probably a kilometre long, crowded both sides and down the side streets with flower stalls. This was no tourist spot, but rather a bustling and jumbled marketplace. The serendipity of purposelessness, the pleasure of being lost.

We often strive for structure: we design it into our learning and choreograph it into our lives. And yet sometimes the greatest excitement, the most delightful discoveries, come from being lost.

Flower Market, Bangkok

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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4 Responses to The Serendipity of Lost

  1. benoitdavid says:

    “…sometimes the greatest excitement, the most delightful discoveries, come from being lost.”
    You nailed it my friend: it is when we are lost (as long as the charge of our device battery keeps us from being really lost) that we discover new things. And it doesn’t need to be in an exotic place: I just came back from two professional conferences (one on learning and the other on Agile), and I while I did make a effort to schedule some specific sessions around my particular interests, I also made a point of letting myself “drift” in the current of people and their thoughts and their opinions and their etc, etc, etc… The connections I made, human and thoughts, are what made the trip (and its costs) totally justified. Discovery is the best thing.

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