I don’t pride myself on my navigation skills. In fact, I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever met. Just this past summer, I was headed for Rockefeller Center in New York City. I live an hour away from NYC, so I’ve been visiting the city for years. I figured that, by this point, I could navigate it pretty easily. I looked at Google Maps, nodded to myself, and walked in the exact opposite direction of the center for about half an hour before I realized that I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.
I was thus a bit worried when I realized I would have to navigate around Montreal—a city I had no prior experience with—for four months. Would I end up walking off of the island when I only meant to go to class? Would I walk to the top of Mount Royal before I realized something was wrong? The possibilities were endless!
Luckily, I didn’t walk off the island or end up in Toronto. I did get a little lost, though.
On my first day of class, I took the Metro from our residence to Sherbrooke, the stop for the Academic Center. During orientation, we had gone on a walk to our campus and the RAs had shown us how to walk from the Metro to class. Thus, feeling semi-confident that I would remember where to go, I left the Metro, took one look around, and realized immediately that I had no idea where I was. I recognized none of the street signs, Google Maps refused to help me, and there was construction going on that blocked some of the streets. I was completely out of my element.
The one upside I’ve found to my tendency to get lost over the years is that I’m used to it by now, so I wasn’t super panicked. I ended up picking a direction and rolling with it, and I stumbled across a small bagel café. I grabbed a mocha and a really good bagel sandwich they called the “Cochon” (consisting of bacon, cheese, an egg, and a little bit of mayo), and when I walked out, I saw that the Academic Center was right down the street!
I realized, then, that even though I got lost easily and I would never be able to read a map properly, there was another upside to my predicament: it had started to give me a sense of adventure.
Once I decided to pick a direction and see where it took me, I started to have a lot more fun trying to find the Academic Center. I managed to get a tasty lunch in the process, and in the end, I found my way.
And over the course of these first few weeks, I’ve started to let myself get lost. One of my traditions back in Burlington is visiting a different café each week with my friends. We usually get a cup of coffee or tea and hang out for the afternoon, catching up on what we’ve been doing for the week and what our classes have been like.
This tradition didn’t have to stay in Burlington, though. I’ve started to wander around Montreal in search of a good cup of mocha, and I haven’t been disappointed.
Some of the more notable stops I discovered were Café Chat L’Heureux, one of Montreal’s cat cafés, and Café Castel, an airy shop where the baristas decorate the drinks with animal art. At Café Chat L’Heureux, my roommate and I took pictures of the sleepy cats and rolled around with a grey cat named Mousse. During our visit to Café Castel, we typed away on our laptops while it poured rain outside. It reminded me a lot of my time in Burlington, as I would often spend afternoons holed up in Maglianero while it rained, editing writing assignments or reading a book.
Reviving my café tradition and fostering my new sense of adventure has really helped ease me into the transition of living in Montreal. My worries about getting super lost are still there, sure, but they’re starting to get a lot quieter, and my excitement about stumbling across new gems in the city is much, much louder.
I may have the worst sense of direction, but getting lost is a lot more fun than I thought.