I have spent the last few weekends “tidying house” and trying to figure out what, from a seemingly endless jumble of possessions, I will be taking with me on our new adventure to KL at the end of June. So it was with much surprise that I opened a box that had scribbled all over it “important papers Ale” – of course this box hadn’t been touched since we last moved homes four years ago. However, while most of the myriad “timeless treasures” promptly made their way to the trash heap though, I found this:

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I believe the Nat Geo maps came out on a quarterly basis. Now they don’t anymore and I miss them. The nostalgia is partly a product of reminiscing. I vividly remember hanging over the side of our old dirty couch in my bathing suit during the dog days of summer in Turin, spending endless hours reading (ok looking at the pictures and maybe reading the captions) and imagining the wondrous people and places the world over. Then sometimes, as if by happenstance, a crisp new map would fall out. It was like magic. Unfolding the map was always an adventure because it meant I was about to embark on a journey to learn about something totally new and unexpected that I never even considered (and in most cases times, people, and places that I never even knew existed).

And so this got me to thinking about how far we have come since the days of Nat Geo maps, and what we might have lost along the way. And basically my conclusion is that for anyone who is digitally connected life is but one big algorithm. Whatever you do online leaves a digital footprint (unless you are really good or have reason to hide) – and this digital footprint creates tons of data that providers feed into their algorithms to offer you what they think you want or need before you even know it!  Read this Economist article if you are keen to know more about the pervasive nature of algorithms.  Now we can read the reviews of every product we might be thinking of buying. Now we can get reviews of that restaurant we were thinking of going to – just in case. Now we can clearly mark our route so we can get to our destination – and follow the directions all the way too!

So what have we lost?

Serendipity.

And the opportunity for getting lost – and all of the wonderful experiences that come with it. An unexplored alley leading to a fabulous Ethiopian restaurant. A smiling face and simple conversation with the person sitting next to us on the bus. Walking down the path and turning left, instead of right, and reaching a sandy stretch of beach with not a soul in sight.

So as I move my Nat Geo maps into the new “take to KL” box and get ready to start on my next adventure, my resolution is to keep an open-mind. Be informed, yes. Do my homework, yes. But also, sometimes … Disconnect. Explore. Discover. Get lost. See what happens. And remember these traveling words of wisdom given to me by Mrs. Sherman (also found in the important papers pile)

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