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All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;

J.R.R. Tolkien

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Frankfurt, Germany. What initially brought me there was a speaking engagement at a conference for my business. Is it happened to work out, I brought my wife with on the trip so we could tour Germany together.

I arrived on Tuesday with a +7h time difference on my hands. Arriving at 9am local time (2am back home in Fargo, ND) there was a small problem. My room wasn’t available to check in until 3pm! I was hoping to have access around noon but it wasn’t possible that day. Thus gave me an opportunity to explore Frankfurt for some time.

What seems like an exciting opportunity quickly turned into overwhelm and frustration.

Where should I go? What should I see? I only have a limited amount of time, I should take advantage of it! I poured into information on my smartphone to find spots to go. Just really to have something to check off the list.

I started to panic, second-guessing each choice. Then a thought from Derek Sivers popped into my head. His article talked about traveling without a phone…wandering…getting lost…being in the moment.

What a frightening concept!

I decided to put the phone away and just start walking. I randomly turned to the right from the hotel and reached the end of the block. There I saw a beautiful river (the “Main” river) and a foot bridge. I headed in that direction, crossed the bridge, and noticed a beautiful cathedral in the distance. It looked cool so I headed in that direction, along a footpath beside the river.

Locals were going on bikes, walking, making out, smoking, etc. Because I didn’t have my phone out I was more in tune with where I was. I knew where the hotel was and what streets I had turned from. I paused every so often to just look around…to read local interest signs, pop down a side street, to just be still.

After a bit I came across a bridge close to the cathedral. It had a multitude of locks (left there by lovers). I took time to read some of them, to look at the river, admire the city, and pause. After I crossed the bridge, I saw a few stands, heard some festive music, and smelled amazing food.

I had stumbled across the local Christmas market!

Speaking little German (seriously less than 15 words), I walked up to a stand and saw something I recognized (currywurst mit br̦tchen Рcurrywurst with a bun) and ordered it. I stood next to a few locals in an eating area, enjoyed my treat, and continued walking.

I spent most of the day exploring like that. It kept me up, helped familiarize myself with the neighborhood, and most importantly, gave me a lesson on letting go and relaxing.

By wandering without a plan, I was able to see and do more than I would have by targeting a specific site. With a target or destination in mind, I would have been so focused on reaching the destination, I would have missed the side streets…missed the the little pauses…missed the still moments of rest.

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