GET LOST EDUCATION

One of my favourite ways to refresh in my downtime is to get on my motorbike and head north of Ubud. The rice-fields, the crazy jungle roads winding up and down valleys and across old bridges, the quiet villages, the mountains and lakes – if you’ve ever holidayed in Bali, and stayed ‘down south’, you may never have seen the real Bali. The real Bali is a world away from the resorts, shopping strips, bars and restaurants in the popular tourist hangouts. When I head out on one of my downtime rides I never really know where I’m going – in fact, the only thing I want to do is get lost.

My definition of ‘getting lost’ is: to not know where I am and to be unsure of how to get to a place that I am familiar with. Bali is a very safe place to get lost. I’ve been lost in outback Australia, in Old Delhi, in London – and there is relatively, and comparably, no fear-factor when getting lost in Bali. Bali is small (if you just keep going, you end up in the mountains or at the beach) – and with good Balinese and Indonesian language skills, I can always ask for directions. I’ve lived in Bali for seven years, and I’ve been getting lost a lot, but I haven’t yet run out of roads that I’ve never been on. So, when I’m riding along and it’s all a bit ‘been here, done that’ all I need to do is take the next turn down a road I’d never been on. The simple secret is to look for the unknown – and then when I find it, I go see where that Unknown takes me. The education I get from ‘getting lost’ is more real and relevant than anything I ever learned in school. Getting lost for most people is a type of failure – we need to move away from that fear of failure; for me, the times I’ve been lost have been my most positive and rewarding.

Even when I’m in the car with my kids – remember Bali is very safe – I’ll take an unexpected turn and say, “Hey – this could be a cool short-cut”. By now my kids know that dad just wants to get lost – they also say that “Dad has maps in his head” and they’re OK with getting lost with me. I spent a lot of time getting lost during my gap decade. India is all about getting lost (rather than what many people go there for – to ‘find’ themselves). I got lost going from village to village doing volunteer health work in Orissa, lost wandering around the moonscapes of Hampi, lost before I found my secret Himalayan hideaway, lost in search of rumoured full-moon parties. There were twelve months in that gap decade that I got lost in my own thoughts – writing two novels, creating crazy art, meditating, studying the stars and creating my own star-maps, learning the guitar.

We spend most of our lives trying not to get lost – staying to the accepted and expected path. Most people probably have bad memories of when they’ve been lost. But there’s so much to learn by getting lost and so many skills and values that instantly upgrade when you are lost. Thinking Critically, Creatively and in Systems – Be Aware, Activate, Adapt, Solve Problems – Communicate and Collaborate – Trust, Integrity, Responsibility, Community, Peace, Empathy: these are the skills and values that you will develop by getting lost. So do it!

Maybe some people read the ‘Get Lost Education’ title and thought: ‘Wow – that’s an interesting thing for a Principal to say’. And, although the theme of this piece is more about the educational benefits from getting lost – it needs to be said (and I’m going to say it) that traditional education (the rigid curriculum, standardised knowledge-based assessment, the homework regimes) is something that we need to tell ‘Get Lost!!!’. Now more than ever, we need schools to be places where a community of learners comes together, learns and shares together, celebrates together – and is happy to get lost together so that we can find a path to a better future.