Lonely Planet Writer

76-Second Travel Show: 'How to get lost'

LET'S GET LOST
So, after six seasons of curlicued characters and plot-lines that even the producers admitted they made up as they went along, that TV series 'Lost' finally ended on Sunday. Fans hit Twitter, many calling it the best finale ever and asking, 'What can I watch now?' USA Today, apparently seriously, called the finale an 'earnest' ending that actually taught us something: 'Individual improvement and redemption are vital, yet not enough. We are not in this alone.'

That we're not alone in this wacky world? That's the payoff after the price of admission totalling 121 episodes and, per my count, some 88 hours of programming (not including ads)? Doesn't seem quite the Tolstoy Deluxe I had expected when I finally gave up on 'Lost' mid-way through the second season.

But the concept of 'lost' is a key part of travel. In Rebecca Solnit's 210-page A Field Guide to Getting Lost -- about a four-hour read -- the California writer (and 'lost' expert) weighs in on all sides of lost -- in terms of place, understanding of country music, art, desert landscapes. My favorite quote was from the colonial-era frontiersman Daniel Boone, who apparently said, 'I was never lost in the woods in my whole life, though once I was confused for three days.' An interesting distinction. (In the video I speak with a Daniel Boone re-enactor about it; he said of his work, 'I'm living the American dream' -- nice guy.)

Actually travel works the same way -- getting lost, or being in surroundings you aren't familiar with at least, is part of the process of building many great travel experiences.

One of my favorite 'lost' episodes, from travel I mean, was simply riding a motorbike on a random dirt road out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- trying to follow the Mekong River as far as I could go. I passed dusty villages sun-drying red chiles on the road itself. At one small village I finally stopped -- to see what would happen. Soon I was enveloped by about 25 people, mostly kids, and was soon led off 'to meet uncle'-- we weaved on our motorbikes another 30 minutes, via two-foot wide paths over sunken rice fields, to a tiny duck farm, where uncle swayed in a hammock by an open hut. We had some duck eggs and chuckled at the language barrier.

I love seeing places like Angkor Wat or the Taj Mahal, but often it's the other things discovered in a trip I remember more. So I always leave deliberate room in my itineraries to have no idea where I'm going or what I'm doing. That approach, common for many travelers, reminds me of another passage in Solnit's book, of an old Buddhist story, with a man galloping by a monk who asks, 'Where are you going?' And the man replies, 'Ask the horse.'

--> What's your favorite 'lost' episode -- from your travels?