No. Seriously. Do it. Last year, I took a gap year. My first stop: Thailand. It was getting lost my very first morning in Chiang Mai that gave me not only an amazing workout buddy, but also an amazing and inspiring best friend.
Chiang Mai, Thailand September, 2015
Beep! Beep! Up already for hours due to the 12 hour time difference, I turned off my seemingly useless alarm in record breaking time. Mary Hill, another girl on the program and I decided to wake up early and go for a run together before starting the day with the 7 other students on their respective gap years. At this point, all I knew about Mary Hill was that she was from North Carolina, and all she knew of me was that I was from New Jersey. After all, we had only known each other for a day! Regardless, we laced up our sneakers and headed out on the busy and unpredictable streets of Chiang Mai. The first few minutes of our run were spent trying to navigate small talk, while also trying to keep track of every twist and turn we took. Well, needless to say, we got lost. At first, it was just in conversation, but then we got lost, literally.
Panting and dripping with sweat from the unforgiving humidity, we wandered around for a bit both feigning confidence in where exactly we were and how we would get back. The solution was simple, right? Ask for help. Well, when you don’t speak Thai and no one else speaks English, it’s not as simple as that. We had to get creative. Luckily, Mary Hill brought the map we had been given the previous day and we engaged in various games of “Point and Pray”; Point at our destination and pray that someone we asked was good enough at charades to guide us home. After 25 minutes and entertaining countless Thai people with our silly game, which they really got a kick out of, we struck gold: a person who spoke English! She may as well have been our guardian angel because about 15 minutes later, we were back. To quote the wise words of Elle Woods, “We did it!”
It took getting lost with Mary Hill, to realize just how lost I’d be without her. Just like that, I found my person, for running and for life. Mary Hill and I ran together everyday, sharing goals, aspirations, and yes, I’ll admit, gossip. We kept each other motivated and accountable when we needed it most and on the days we simply weren’t feeling it, we walked (with sticks of course, as to ward away ferocious guard dogs eager for a chase). Do I think that if we hadn’t gotten lost that morning we wouldn’t have the same friendship that we do today? No, but I am so glad that we did.
Sometimes you get lost. Sometimes you are wandering in a foreign place with no idea how to get back. It’s okay. Take a moment to freak out, but don’t beat yourself up about it because freaking out is inevitable. It’s in our nature when faced with the unknown. The key is to know when to stop, dust yourself off, and try to work it out. You may not be able to do it on your own, but asking for help doesn’t make you weak. In fact, the strongest people are the ones who know that not every problem is meant to be solved alone. So, go on, get lost! You may just find something (or someone) special in the process.