A Lesson From The Road – A Story About Getting Lost

Getting Lost

I recently wrote about my solo weekend getaway to Korea’s Boseong Green Tea Fields.  As I mentioned in the post, I greatly enjoyed the trip as it allowed me to get away from the city for a couple of days. What I did not mention was that on my way to the fields I got utterly lost. From Seoul, I was supposed to take a bus to Gwangju (광주) from which I would get to the town of Boseong.  When I went to buy my ticket from the counter, I didn’t see Gwangju on the timetable.  However, I did see Gongju (공주) as a possible destination.

South Korean masks.

Not yet able to comprehensively read Korean, I didn’t notice the slight difference in how the two cities were spelled. Instead, I mistakenly thought ‘Gongju’ was just a different Romanization of ‘Gwangju’.  My eagerness to get on a bus and begin my journey prevented me from realizing I had just bought a bus ticket to the wrong destination. I had read online that the bus ride to Gwangju was supposed to take around four hours.  So, as you might imagine, I immediately felt a sense of doubt when the bus pulled into a terminal after less than two hours. I recognized straight away that I had indeed bought a ticket to the wrong city.  After allowing myself to be angry for only about ten seconds, I figured, “It’s not that bad.  I can just buy a ticket to Gwangju from here (Gongju)”.  If only things were that simple. Gongju did not have a direct route to Gwangju. I had a decision to make. I could chalk up the two hour bus ride I had just taken as wasted time and return to Seoul to buy a ticket to Gwangju. Or, I could take the risk of getting even more lost by finding my way to Gwangju via another route.

One of the most fascinating architectures in Asia.

My whole intention of this weekend trip was to have a mini-journey.  So, of course, I chose the latter option. I thank the universe for smartphones because without mine I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue of where to go.  But just because I had my smartphone did not mean I would not get lost. I searched on my phone for the closest big city that would take me to Gwangju.  I settled on Daejeon.  But I had to choose between East and West Daejeon.  I randomly chose West (wrong again!).

I hopped on the bus and tried to relax with a book.  Focusing on the book was difficult because of the rush of not having any idea of where I was going or whether I was ever going to make it to the Green Tea Fields. After about one hour, the bus came upon a big city so I figured we were in Daejeon.  I had to be attentive to try to look for the Express Bus Terminal that shuttles between different cities.

Korea statues
Random statues I stumbled upon

But of course, the last stop for the bus was some random street on the outskirts of town.  I tried to ask the bus driver how to get to the bus terminal but my Korean is virtually non-existent so despite his seeming kindness, he was of no help to me.

At this point in the story I should mention that it was raining and that I also had an injured foot.  You can now picture me limping around a completely foreign city all while it’s raining. I searched for the location of the bus terminal using Google Maps and discovered that it was on the entire opposite side of the city. I knew where I had to go but didn’t know how to get there because it was so far away.  I started walking towards the terminal, hoping I would find an easier way to get there.

As the rain began to pick up, I kept wandering the streets, with only a general idea of where I needed to be headed. Finally, after about thirty minutes, I stumbled upon an entrance to the subway. Woohoo! I quickly (my battery was close to dying) downloaded the subway app for Daejeon and found the stop closest to the bus terminal. After twenty minutes on the subway, I reached the bus terminal.

Statue of traditional Korean tea ritual.
Statue of traditional Korean tea ritual.

This time you better believe I was careful to buy a ticket for Gwangju rather than Gongju. I arrived in Gwangju unscathed and then bought my ticket for Boseong.  At 11pm, six hours later than I had anticipated, I was in Boseong.

Lesson Learned

My guess is that this story would sound like a nightmare for a person who does not travel: ‘Wasted’ time, walking in the rain with no umbrella, in the middle of nowhere and essentially unable to communicate with anyone.

All of these things can be extremely frustrating.  In fact, I can guarantee that if this had happened to me two years ago, before I had ever done any traveling, I would have burst into a million pieces from the frustration. Anyone that knows me is aware that there are few things I am better at than getting lost.  I can recall several occasions when I got lost driving somewhere and would slam my hands on the steering wheel because of the time or gas I had wasted. That almost never happens to me anymore and my trip to Boseong exemplifies that perfectly.  My travels over the past two years have taught me many things.  Perhaps the most important of those things is to ‘let go’ when things aren’t going right.

Korea 099
Finally, the green tea fields!

So often, we get caught up on how we want things to be.  As a result, we miss out on how things are. Travel has taught me to relish in the times when things don’t go as planned.  On the road, things are always going to happen that changes any plans you have.

Like travel, there are so many things in life that we simply cannot control.  When you fully realize this, you start to see that it’s actually silly to get upset when things take a different course than you wanted.

When you allow yourself to ‘go with the flow’ as some people say, you may even find that more incredible things happen than would have happened had your plans gone to perfection.  Nothing unexpectedly awesome happened on my trip but I did get to see a new city (Daejeon) that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.  Plus, the whole getting lost makes for a much better story than if I had just went straight to Boseong with zero issues on the way.  Where would have been the fun in that?

Yulpo Beach, close to the tea fields
Yulpo Beach, close to the tea fields

As I walked down those unknown streets with a limp and rain falling on my face, I couldn’t help but smile. If I had been angry and frustrated by my mistake, would that have helped my situation?  Of course not.  Instead, I would have only been miserable for the duration of the trip.  Because I was able to let go of my plans and expectations, I was able to enjoy my new surroundings as well as the challenge of finding my way to my intended destination. I was doing something that most people wouldn’t dare even attempt.  While I know there are many places where this situation would have been far more difficult, this was the greatest challenge I have personally faced on the road so far. I revel in the fact that I was frustrated for only ten mere seconds.  I was simply content to be doing something that invigorated me, something that made me feel alive.

I definitely owe my ability to not be frustrated during this ordeal to my travels.  The more I travel, the more I see myself as a passive observer able to flow with the tide.

The next time you find yourself feeling frustrated or angry about something, try to take a step back.  Think to yourself, “Is this really worth getting angry about? Am I missing out an opportunity to learn something or enjoy an unexpected turn of events?”

If you can learn to travel without concrete ideas of how you want things to go and instead be willing to let go of expectations, there’s no telling where the roads will take you.


Matt Inman is currently an English teacher in South Korea. He is dedicated to travel as a means to learn about himself and the world around him.  He recently launched his own travel blog as a way to share his journey in the hopes that he can inspire others to make the leap and begin their own journeys.


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42 thoughts on “A Lesson From The Road – A Story About Getting Lost”

  1. Sarah | The Wanderblogger

    Great story, Matt! I can completely relate. I don’t think we’ve ever traveled anywhere where everything went exactly as planned. If I were to get upset every time something went “wrong”, I probably wouldn’t be traveling anymore. ;)

    My personal challenge now is to apply this same ‘go with the flow attitude’ to my life outside of travel. It’s a work in progress! :)

    1. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a work in progress for me too! But it’s been really fun for me to watch how I react in situations on the road. The more practice I get, the better I get at going with the flow. Thanks for the comment!

  2. These mistakes are so easy to make, especially in Asia! I find it really difficult to not get het up and upset by these kind of mistakes, and really need to focus of making the most of just being somewhere different even if it wasn’t my intention. It’s good advice for all travellers!

    1. Totally agree, Charlie. It can be difficult but you just have to try your best to not dwell on the possibilities of things going wrong. Then when they do, it won’t be so bad. At least, that’s how I try to approach it!

  3. Nice story Matt! Mistakes like this, even if they might be incredibly frustrating when they happen, might make the whole experience better and take you places you wouldn’t have gone to otherwise.

    1. I totally agree, Franca. I’ve trying to having this mindset in the moment as well so that the difficult experiences are great at the time rather than only in hindsight.

  4. santafetraveler

    Whenever we take a wrong turn we try to remember that some new possibility has opened for us and see where it leads. Great story!

  5. Jessica | Independent Travel Cats

    We are heading to South Korea next month! Sorry to hear you got lost, but great to learn a lesson. We always seem to do this as well when we get lost.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this Matt! I have a fairly good sense of direction…but that’s in my own country. So, I was fascinated to read how you adjusted and kept persevering in Korea. I most appreciated your cup half full attitude and taking the positive outlook to your accidental mistakes. Great pictures btw, sir! :)

  7. Sounds like a bit of a pain, but glad to hear it didn’t phase you :) Definitely makes for a much better story than if you have just gone straight to the right destination.

  8. “So often, we get caught up on how we want things to be. As a result, we miss out on how things are.”

    I couldn’t agree more!!!

  9. Great story! I never made it to the tea fields when I was in Korea. I wasn’t lost though- I just didn’t get time sadly. I wish I had. Getting lost when travelling always leads to the best stories and adventures. A very shortened version of my best getting lost story involved me ending up in a very dangerous part of Venezuela and having to hide out in a pharmacy (with bars on the windows) as the local shop workers said I would get kidnapped if I walked around! I had a great day though :-)

    1. Well your Venezuela experience makes the tea fields pale in comparison. They are really nice but I wouldn’t say they are a “can’t miss.”

      As long as nothing went terribly wrong, no reason why should be a day-killer. Great to hear you still had a great day!

  10. Casey @ A Cruising Couple

    Great post! And it’s so true- when you’re traveling, you just have to go with the flow! Often the best memories are those from the ridiculous, unplanned events anyway! But as another commenter said above, I have much more difficulty applying this lesson to other aspects of my life! Definitely something to work on.

    1. Thanks Casey!
      I definitely agree that it’s hard to apply this sort of thinking to non-travel experiences. Mostly, it just takes practice and noticing how you feel when something goes wrong, without really trying to change it.

      As you slowly become more aware of the anger or frustration, you begin to realize how silly those thoughts are anyway. At least, that’s how it’s worked for me.

  11. Tim | UrbanDuniya

    What a great post! I love getting lost while I’m travelling, whether it’s in a car on old country backroads, or in the twisting lanes of a historic city. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I was always afraid of doing the same thing, misreading the Chinese characters and getting on the wrong bus. At one station we were simply told to get on the yellow bus – in Mandarin – so there was definitely a lot of room for error! Luckily things always worked out, but now I kind of wish I’d let myself get lost :-)

    1. Ooh, I got lost in Korean, I’m sure I’d get even more lost in China. Nice luck though! No worries about missing out! You can get lost anywhere if you want, even your home town :)

  13. I’ve definitely gotten lost many times around Asia and it’s so true – you just have to relax and go with the flow! Plus this made for a great story!

  14. Helen G. Dickerson

    Sometimes getting lost is the best adventure there is. And I agree with you. Sometimes we are so focused on goal that we sometimes forget to see the things that are already there. Great post.

    1. Yep, we seem to miss out on the things right in front of us far too often because of how we want things to be.
      Thank you Helen!

  15. Hi, Matt! Thanks for sharing the story. I like making plans when traveling & I often feel frustrated when I waste my time for nothing. However, I think that’s maybe because I take a short vacation (1 month tops) so I always feel like I need to cover as much as possible in a limited time. Maybe I should try longer travel, so I don’t have to feel in a rush every time.
    I’d still be mad, though, if I waste my time because of someone else. It happened once that I was in a foreign country & was supposed to meet a friend, but she took forever and didn’t even seem sorry for making me wait. Until now, I still wish I hadn’t had to meet her that day.

  16. For domestic travel, place your name and address on your wheelchair and on all removable parts before leaving home. A return address, sticky mailing label covered by a piece of clear tape works well for this task. However for international travel during times of heightened security, consider using a label that displays only your name

  17. Great story! Good to hear that you finally made it there in the end and didn’t give up despite everything!! Mistakes can definitely make travelling more fun…after all the biggest adventures are the ones that are unexpected :D

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