By 5:45 a.m., we were pretty sure we were lost.
I shivered in borrowed layers as I held out my phone — our only source of light in the moonless dark. My feet crunched along an uneven trail on the wisely named Sea of Sand.
"Hallo!" *motor rumblings* "Hallooo!"
For the 12th time, a local on an outdated motorbike rode up. Man-Friend and I paused our playful joking to look over in increasing exasperation.
"Hallo, yes. You need a ride?"
"No, thanks, we'd really like to walk."
"Bromo? I take you."
"No, no. We like to walk, thank you."
In their defense, we clearly didn't know what we were doing. Aimless in a literal sea of wet sand, we were following jeep tracks, hoping to find the viewpoint where we could watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo. An active volcano on the east side of Java Island, Indonesia, we'd seen the photos — the view promised to be incredible. The problem was we'd done little to no research about the trail up, nor did we expect it to be as directionless as it was ending up.
By 6:25 a.m., just shy of sunrise, reality had drop-kicked our hubris right in the overly confident 'nads. We were soaked and stiff, staring up an intimidating hillside. Up we needed to go, yet a dense, unyielding fog had settled on the valley. We weren't sure the trek would be worth it.
Not for the first time while traveling, I'd found myself in quite a pickle.
Whether through lack of planning or a poor sense of direction, I often wound up lost and looking for some sign I was on the right path.
A beautiful hike by the sea left Man-Friend and me staring at a gorgeous sunset over the harbor in Busan, South Korea. It also left us stranded in an unknown part of town. It was only through educated guessing (and his being able to read Korean) that we found the subway again.
In Singapore, I accidentally enjoyed the entirety of Little India before stumbling across a restaurant that served top-notch palak paneer and vegetable samosas. Oh, and a train that took me to my hostel.
A couple wrong turns in the bustling Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam, meant discovering a tiny dessert stand with the best chocolate-filled pastry I'd had in ages. A few turns and crumbs later, we popped out near Hoan Kiem Lake, just as the afternoon sun started glistening off the water.
I never seem to know where I am as I travel, yet I never feel lost. In fact, it's almost easy to keep calm — to keep a smile amid the befuddlement. Admittedly, I'm never in an actually dangerous situation — basic planning and common sense keep me out of harm's way. But many of my best travel moments are absolute accidents.
In the end, it was those same motorbike drivers that gave us a ride up the mountain — straight into the thick of those low-hanging clouds. While our travel partner fumed in frustration at our poor luck, Man-Friend and I left the valley below ringing with laughter. Abandoning hope of that "perfect picture," we hopped back on the bikes. It was time to climb Mount Bromo itself.
Another long walk later, choking on sulfur fumes, I snapped a photo through the only slightly ebbing fog. Nothing had gone to plan, and I had nary a quality photograph to show for it. Yet there I was, massive smile under my mask-covered face.
I mean, hell, I was at the top of a fricken' volcano.
Perfect in every single imperfection, I had the view I needed. Lost only in the moment, I knew I was just where I wanted to be.