Lost Girl of the Week: Elizabeth Farrar

Lost Girl of the Week — By on April 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm

After finding herself without a job and without a plan, Lost Girl Liz Farrar embraced her ‘hopelessly lost’ status and booked a 10-week trip to Europe. When she’s not posing as a nomad, Liz works (or rather worked) as a communications guru in Congress — writing speeches, thinking up clever soundbites, and obsessively checking her blackberry. You can follow her travels at: www.elizabethfarrar.blogspot.com


I hate to generalize, but there are two types of travelers in this world: those who are afraid to get lost and those who embrace it as a lifestyle choice.

I can spot the former from a mile away. They’re generally positioned on a street corner (tell-tale daypacks, colorful t-shirts, and telephoto lens in tow) and huddled over their lifeline: an impossible-to-refold, boy-those-letters-are-small, what-does-that-say tourist map.

Occasionally, these map people will take a short break from the squinting and pointing to actually take in their surroundings, but that’s always short-lived. These are travelers with a plan, four guidebooks, and a strict itinerary. Who has the time to look around; we’re here to sightsee, remember?

It’s not that I have anything against planners or the well-organized. My wardrobe – organized by type, color, and sleeve length – is a testament to that. But the trouble with living your life according to a plan is your view of life’s possibilities is always constrained by it.

I’m speaking from experience here. I had been leading a carefully scripted life for nearly 30 years; methodically marching between life’s landmarks (high school graduation, college degrees, internships, first political job, better political jobs…you get the idea). I was climbing the ladder, following the plan, living the dream.

But instead of feeling elated about my success, the years of grueling political campaigns, deadlines, and incessant blackberry buzzing had left me feeling exhausted and unhappy. Deep down, I knew something felt wrong about the path I was on, but I had invested so much into the plan, I never once considered there might be an alternative.

Fate had other ideas.

On Election Day, the voters of Indiana chose the other guy and sent me a pink slip. It wasn’t even close. I was heartbroken about the outcome, particularly for my hard-working boss and dedicated co-workers, but secretly I felt a little relieved for myself too.

This was a gift: a chance to remake my entire life. My mind was suddenly open to all of the possibilities I had missed before; all of those things that weren’t part of the plan. But I had no idea what path I wanted to take. I was, in a word, lost.

I needed to step away from my old life, and find some space and time to think. So I did the only rational thing I could: I booked a ten-week solo trip to Europe.

Hey, if you’re going to be lost, I thought, why not have a little pasta and some gelato while you sort things out?

I have just passed the halfway point in my trip, and not surprisingly, some of my favorite cities so far — Madrid, Venice, Barcelona — are those that invite you to get lost; enticing travelers with their amazing little cafes tucked away on charming streets and bustling plazas that appear where you least expect them.

And I have embraced lost as a lifestyle choice in my travels because I’ve seen what can happen when you fold up the map and let your instinct and your curiosity lead.

You see parts of the world the people with the maps miss. You appreciate each day for what it is: a journey, not a set of landmarks. You remember to look around you, bask in the details of life, relish surprises.

You learn that no direction is ever final; you have the power to adjust as you go. You gain confidence in yourself to face the unknown, knowing you’ve done it at least a dozen times that day already.

Wander enough and you may start to notice you’ve known the way all along. And when you reach that point, being lost in this world or in this life, isn’t so scary anymore.

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