I have always considered myself pretty skillful with direction. Being lost stresses me out too much for me to ever let it happen, so I enlist my trio of preventative measures; Google Maps, Find My Friends, and Siri, to always have a full sense of where I am. My millennial tactics have always made sure figuring out my way around a new environment has never been an intimidating prospect, but over the past few weeks in Sydney I started noticing that my trusty apps were beginning to take away from my experience navigating the city more than enhance it.
“To become completely lost is perhaps a rather rare experience for most people in the modern city,” Kevin Lynch writes in his novel ‘The Image of The City.’ It’s a statement I find extremely relevant considering my smartphone reliance, but it’s what Lynch goes on to say in his writing that served as wake-up call to me of sorts. “Let the mishap of disorientation once occur, and the sense of anxiety and even terror that accompanies it reveals to us how closely it is linked to our sense of balance and well-being. The very word “lost” in our language means much more than simple geographical uncertainty; it carries overtones of utter disaster.” I barely realized that with every new place in the city I independently seek to discover, I’m usually buried in my phone staring at a map and blocking out the world with my headphones. Our NYU campus in Sydney is an almost 40 minute walk away from our dorm, with plenty of casual sightseeing along the way. I’ve been walking this route twice a day for the past 2 weeks, so you’d think I’d have it mastered, yet unfortunately my Google Maps dependency has gotten so bad that I end up needing my dear Siri’s voice to guide me on my way, as I’m not acknowledging my surroundings, just routinely passing through. I’ve gotten so caught up in my screen and making it to class on time that usually whenever a fellow student references a restaurant or landmark they saw ‘on the way to campus’ I have no clue what they’re talking about.
This week I decided my oblivion was something I’d actively like to change. While I didn’t completely cut out my phone’s role in helping me to navigate the world, I made an effort to involve it significantly less. It turns out when you walk down the Sydney streets without your head buried in a screen you notice many things. The street performers along my route usually play popular hits that I enjoy just as much, if not more, than what’s usually in my headphones. I’ve gotten familiar with which coffee place is where without my Yelp app, and I’m using my Maps app less as the week goes on. I did take one prolonged involuntary detour through Chinatown while attempting to get home yesterday, but from it a discovered a new roster of restaurants to try out while I’m here. Its so easy to be distracted from what’s actually in front of you when you have access to the whole world at your fingertips. I appreciate my resources and how many scary situations they help me to prevent, but I don’t think it’ll hurt me to much in the future to let go just a little and allow myself to get a little lost.