Get lost

Paris directional signsMy phone died today. That is, it ran out of juice. Hardly surprising as it’s an iPhone – you know, the really expensive ones with the crap batteries? Cursing Steve Jobs’ name, I left it behind as I set out to run my errands across the border in Geneva. Flying without a net, as it were. Turned out it was the best thing that could’ve happened.

Traffic in town can be difficult so I decided to park the car by the lake and walk.

At first I felt lost without my usual electronic crutches: Google maps, email, contacts and various other apps. Then I noticed how much lighter I felt. I took a deep breath and inhaled the scent of wet trees in the park. Enjoyed the view of the sailboats bobbing on the lake without worrying about taking a picture.

First stop: dentist appointment. It was just a checkup so I was actually hurrying to get there rather than dragging my feet. I have a tendency to over-optimize my time management, i.e. arrive late. Assuming I knew where it was I had plenty of time, but my memory of the exact location proved, well, inexact. Probably because the last time I went there I had my nose stuck to my iPhone for directions.

There’s nothing like getting lost to help you get to know a place. I’ve lived in this area for a few years now but never seem to be able to map anything. Geneva is not big, but like many cities in these mountainous parts it’s built on multiple levels. Also, there are no right-degree angles. Each intersection has multiple roads shooting off in various directions.

I took a couple of wrong turns and became increasingly disoriented. The two streets that I thought should intersect didn’t seem to, so I had to make an executive decision. Left or right? Always follow your instincts, I thought, and headed left. A few minutes later I had massive doubts, so I did something unprecedented. I asked a nice looking fellow for directions.

Excusez-moi? Do you happen to know how to get to Rue de la Terrassière?

That way, he said, pointing in the opposite direction. Sometimes my instincts kind of suck.

I got there just a few minutes late. My dentist was waiting for me. “Just a checkup?” she asked, sounding disappointed. The last time I’d seen her she’d shot me so full of Novocain I’d looked like a stroke victim the entire day.

The experience made me wonder: How did we manage before? Or were we perhaps smarter without our ‘smart’ phones?

When I first came to France back in the pre-internet days, there was nothing for it but to get out there and get lost. I became quite good at it. Even though I always carried a map, it was so much work stopping, unfolding it and trying to figure out where exactly I was, I usually just kept walking. It was trial and error, and a lot of wear on the feet, but you always reached your destination sooner or later.

After the dentist, I had an hour free so I wandered down to the main shopping area and stopped for a coffee. As I didn’t have my phone, I wasn’t tempted to check for messages. Instead, I sipped my latté by the window and watched the people going by on the street. Came up with the idea for this post and scribbled down a few thoughts.

Then I stopped at the optical store to get my sunglasses adjusted, picked up some things at the pharmacy and went to meet my lunch date. My friend was waiting for me at a café in Eaux-Vives, and we spent a pleasant hour or so catching up over moules-frites.

All in all, I was without my phone for about three hours. Nothing earth shattering happened. No urgent emails or phone calls came in that couldn’t wait until I got home.

I did get lost but I found my way. And I’m pretty sure I’ll remember it next time.

What about you? When was the last time you got lost?


  1. wisemonkeysabroad · November 13, 2014

    🙂 It is amazing how we rely so heavily on our technology these days. We think back to the days when we use to have to leave the house prepared, on time, know where we are going, who we were meeting at what time.

    Great post 🙂

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      Merci! Clearly some challenges are universal. Glad to know it speaks to even the well traveled blogger!

  2. Suzanne et Pierre · November 13, 2014

    You are totally right that all of these electronic devices are now like crutches. We do rely on them too much. I do still like to use a paper map when discovering new cities. I find that it is easier to read and to understand than the one on the phone (that is if you can get a connection!). Paper never fails you. I think it is good to go without these “crutches” from time to time to realize that you can actually survive without them. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      So true, Suzanne! We need to learn to get the value of the technology without becoming overly dependent. I’ll definitely be renewing my phone-free morning – it gives you new eyes to enjoy the world!

  3. Dana · November 13, 2014

    My iPhone loses battery at an alarming rate, and sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise when this happens. Glad you were able to “Profites!” 🙂

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      That I did, Dana. Agree it’s a blessing…most of the time. 😉

  4. Food,Photography & France · November 13, 2014

    My phone is usually turned off to save the battery ….I might as well carry a small weight around with me:)

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      Yes, those iPhones are heavy — sometimes it feels like a ball and chain! I forget to charge mine, then curse and swear when it goes dead.

  5. youtreetv · November 13, 2014

    I still love looking at maps and getting a sense of direction, where I am going, pictured in my head. Often I forget to charge my phone and head out wondering what exciting thing I hadn’t planned for may happen. How lovely to hear you had a chances the watch the world, to smell the coffee, to talk to strangers. You were in the moment, not having to race anywhere but to embrace the place where you were at that moment. Last week I was in London, everyone was texting or something on the phone but no-one was talking. We need to do more of this, to engage the world and appreciate where we are. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments! Indeed, being in the moment is the best present (I think I just said something profound!)….

      • youtreetv · November 13, 2014

        I enjoyed your blog and have found it motivational. Thanks.

  6. Jacqui Murray · November 13, 2014

    Good story. Is there a phone that has a longer-lasting battery? Mine goes a couple of days, but I don’t use it constantly.

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      Thanks, Jacqui! I think it depends on how you use it – certain apps with a lot of data like maps run down the battery pretty fast. Part of it is me – I forget to charge the stupid thing until it’s time to go out. But I have used other phones that had the option of a backup battery you could charge and replace when needed. I once asked one of the ultra cool types that work at the Apple store and got treated like a dope, so I have it in for them! 🙂

      • Jacqui Murray · November 15, 2014

        When I use the map functions, the phone runs down in a matter of a few hours–maybe one. I don’t do that often. I do carry a spare battery, though, and usually end up lending it out!

  7. BigLizzy · November 13, 2014

    Ha! This is a great post, my sweet Frenchy.

    I LOVE the imagery of you sipping latte in a window and people-watching. I was transported there immediately. So very nice!

    I agree that we have become, in general, less intelligent due to our smart phones. I militantly refuse to buy a Garmin, even though I am a Motorcycle Tour Guide in Sedona and I get lost frequently. Menopause is making it much worse for me, too. But, like you, I always find my way out and the guests don’t know when I’m lost because they don’t know where they are going either. 🙂

    And, also like you, I have an iPhone with a sucky battery (mine’s an old one, an iPhone 3, gasp!) and it’s so painful and slow to get on the Internet that I rarely do it. I think in five years with this phone, I have accessed the maps app only twice and both times in search of a Starbucks, because being lost with no coffee just makes me want to kill people. Hhahahah!

    Love your posts so much, mon ami. Keep getting lost and telling us about it.

    Warm hugs, BigLizzy

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      Oh, Lizzy, your comments are always so wonderful! I am so glad my story transported you to our side of the Atlantic, however briefly. And your description of you leading the lost troops on that big bad bike of yours had me right there with you, in the virtual sidecar! Ha, ha… I’m with you on the coffee. That’s probably what inspired the post after all. Big bises from France! xx

  8. Osyth · November 13, 2014

    Having just had a melt-down because I thought I had been locked out of my email account on both mac and iPhone I have to confess that my image of self as a technology free throwback hippie is probably a little confused. So to you I doff my cap and thank you for the reminder that we can do without and in fact are probably better off out and about without …. 😉

    • MELewis · November 13, 2014

      OMG if that had happened to me at home I would also have a major meltdown! And poor hubby would probably get caught in the crossfire as he’s my resident IT guy and therefore it’s always his fault! 😉 I am not a huge fan of mobile media in general – first problem being able to read it on such a small screen. But we do get used to relying on the dratted things.

  9. Osyth · November 13, 2014

    Oh believe me, my long suffering husband got caught in the cross-fire and IT isn’t even his discipline 😉

  10. Mélanie · November 17, 2014

    excellent post, MELewis… ❤ I get lost now and then, even with a GPS or a map, so… I do understand you! 🙂

    • MELewis · November 17, 2014

      Next time you get lost, Melanie, I just know you’ll share a few wonderful photos and some interesting thoughts on it!

  11. Aquileana · November 19, 2014

    Just three hours?… See we became dependant to cell phones and computers…
    There was a power outage here yesterday at night. I felt so “lost”… I truly did.. I think once you get used to certain technological tools you just can’t go backwards… By the way, do you remember what a task was to take pictures before the digital cameras!… Great post. Best wishes. Aquileana 😀

  12. phildange · November 24, 2014

    I see I’m not alone . I never switched on the GPS of my car and I always buy a paper map of a new city I discover . Or a new country . In the whole world, as well as in France, I had some of my highest traveller’s moments watching a map and my intuition . And it’s easy to navigate anywhere with a map, even if people have forgotten or never known this .

    • MELewis · November 25, 2014

      I also love maps for getting a real sense of where you are and where you’re going.

  13. Pingback: Find the entrance | FranceSays

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