Excerpt from Chapter 1
How to Get Lost
Do you want to hear an astounding number? 65,439. Sure, it’s not so astounding on its own, so you have to know the context: That’s the number of search and rescue (SAR)39 missions launched for people who went missing inside America’s national parks between 1992 and 2007.
65,439! Basically, the entire population of Jupiter, Florida.
Over a fifteen-year period, that’s nearly twelve lost people per day. One every two hours who just went *poof* and disappeared into the wilderness somewhere across America. Like we said, astounding. Fortunately, the period of time people are typically lost for is rarely ever very long. The average search and rescue mission for a lost hiker or hunter—who make up more than 40 percent of those national parks cases—lasts about ten hours, which usually isn’t a life threatening amount of time, although it’s probably several hours longer than it takes to scare the bejeezus out of them.
There are a million different ways to get lost, but what’s interesting is that when people get lost (particularly out in nature), they all act in the exact same ways. This is the discovery of psychology professor Kenneth Hill, who studies the psychology of being lost at Saint Mary’s University way up in Nova Scotia, Canada. Independent of race or gender or nationality or outdoor experience or even age, when people get lost, they kind of lose their minds—but in predictable ways. They forget their training (if they had any). They forget what they were taught by parents and teachers—some forget themselves entirely and just kind of go berserk. And they engage in some combination of the same eight behaviors, kind of like robots that have been programmed with outdated guidance software that’s chock full of bugs: random traveling, route traveling, direction traveling, route sampling, direction sampling, view enhancing, backtracking, staying put.
The thing is: when you take a closer look at each of these “lost person behaviors,” as they’re called in the search-and-rescue field, it’s easy to see how each one of us could fall prey to them. Including you—yes, you!—and everyone you know and love. All of you: lost, lost, lost!