When I first picked up Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, it was on vacation for my 28th birthday. My plan was to read it while outside in San Francisco and the Muir Woods. It felt perfect. Reading the first essay on a redwood root bigger than me was perfect. I figured I could finish the whole essay collection on the plane ride home. But the essays themselves seemed to scold me for my plan.
In that first essay Solnit writes, “It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar.” She adds that there is an art “of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control.”
A secret about me: I may love to wander and explore, but I’m also a big, big planner. I like control. I’m a completionist: I like to read front to back, one book at a time. I like to make a plan and stick to it. But over the past few years, I’ve gotten better at letting myself truly wander, and discover, and enjoy — all the things this book was about. And so, it occurred to me on the plane that there was something wrong with finishing it straight through just to get it done.
So after that one essay on the plane, I closed the book and came up with a new plan. I wasn’t sure how committed I would be to it at first. I read the next essay on the plane home, then I put it away.
Instead of reading this book from front to back, I decided that I would read its essays one at a time, reading each in a different place, and only picking it up when it felt right to bring it with me. When the wanderlust or exploratory energy had built up just right in the pit of my stomach.

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