Before coming abroad to Prague, one of the few things I had prided myself on was my sense of direction. I could be dropped off virtually anywhere and manage to find my way home with nothing but a map and street names, or so I thought. Growing up in generally large urban cities with grid-like structure of streets and roads, I was always able to find my way from point A to point B. Furthermore, if I felt a little lost, I could always ask the next person on the street for the nearest landmark or large street. From there, it would often be easy to find the way home as, most of the time I can tell my four cardinal directions. Coming to Prague, I was fully confident that these skills would transfer and that I would have to trouble getting to school, among other destinations. Only now have I realized that I was so wrong. Its been close to three weeks since I have landed in Prague and still I find myself lost and confused. Not only can I not read the street names, I have found myself struggling with the ever twisting roads that seemingly start and end randomly. I cannot ask the locals here as I obviously don’t understand Czech, and I can’t ask the tourists as they seem just as lost as I am.
At first I felt so confused and lost in my own self as I began to realize, I suck at directions. Something I once so strongly prided myself in came crashing down into nothing but a realization that I simply happened to live in conveniently organized urban areas. I felt embarrassed in my realization and vowed to myself that “sooner rather than later, I will find my way to school without using Google Maps”. Like I said earlier, it’s been close to three weeks, and you guessed it, I’m still struggling. However, the difference is this. I’ve begun to enjoy getting lost. In my own time, I have often taken the tram or the subway somewhere I’ve never been before and walked around aimlessly, in an attempt to better understand the area. Just the other day, I left my dorm at noon to get to a class that started at 3:00pm. No, I wasn’t assuming that it would take me three hours to a class that is only supposed to take me 20 minutes, but I left so early because I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore and “get lost”. I took the subway to a station named “Staromeskta”(Don’t ask me how to pronounce Czech words), and began wandering down the streets through its countless alleyways, evading the endless crowds of tourists. I entered little stores and shops that I would normally not find interest in and somehow found myself looking through a rather large, but well-hidden antique shop.
As I entered the shop, the manager reluctantly greeted me and had the expression of annoyance as I could tell he was probably thinking, “yet another tourist here to look around and not buy anything”. From that alone I was considering leaving the moment I entered, but instead I marched on down the store. A little further down, a store employee so vey kindly welcomed me into the store and we began conversation. Although I myself am very awkward with conversations with strangers, the store employee was strangely easy to talk to. She was kind enough to personally show me around the store and explain the centuries of history that stored and hidden within each artifact. I was allowed a glimpse into the lives of the everyday Czechs through the antiques that they had left behind and learned more through them than any book I would’ve read through my classes. It was short, but it was a lasting experience. An experience I obtained, not through the internet, but by getting lost.