The storied travel writer Paul Theroux once said that the whole of point of traveling is to get lost, because that’s when you test your character and push your boundaries. But getting lost has become almost impossible now. Most travelers have cellphones with Internet access and Google maps – you can even post on Facebook, Skype with your mother or tweet for help while on an Antarctic cruise. The convenience of staying connected adds up to safer journeys, but it also subtracts from the excitement of venturing into the unknown.
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I tried to revisit the old spirit of exploration that had guided my early trips by road-testing Theroux’s advice. I left my phone, camera and guidebook in my hotel room in Quarry Bay before heading out in the early evening to ride the HK Tramways for the first time. I’d seen the double-decker trams on previous visits and have heard the “ding ding” of their bells, which had given them their local nickname, and skimmed a story or two about their century-long legacy dating back to the British reign. Climbing up the back stairs of the tram to choose a more scenic seat upstairs, I only knew that I was heading east. Without a camera, I wanted to see if I could truly be in the moment – soaking in the sights of Hong Kong, its streets ablaze with bright neon signs, smelling the fried food and hot soup wafting out from the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and feeling the heat of that tropical night on my skin.