Take a journey somewhere unexpected with the Getting Lost card game. Photo by Rachel Judkins.

Getting Lost: a journey with no destination


It’s a hot Thursday in the school holidays and finding my family at a loose end, I decide to bundle them into the car for an adventure. We head out of town with the music and air conditioning blasting, but unlike everyone else on the road, we don’t know where we are going or what we are going to do. Today’s fun will be directed by a pack of cards and is all about the journey, not the destination. 

Getting Lost is a travel game that ditches the predictability of pre-planned itineraries, using ‘misdirection cards’ that instruct players to follow the wind or flip a coin for east or west, and action cards for quirky activities to do along the way. While made in New Zealand, the game is designed to be played anywhere in the world and is the perfect way to explore unexpected places off the beaten track.

Get Lost card INP

Follow a blue car to see where you end up. Photo by Rachel Judkins

Once out of the city, we turn over our first card: ‘Follow a blue car’. We soon spy a dark blue ute that becomes our guide – when it turns left at a roundabout, we do too, cheekily following at a discrete distance as it winds through the rural landscape. After a few twists and turns, the ute pulls into a driveway, so we carry on ahead, ready for the next card.

‘Turn Left’ takes us onto an even narrower road. We are now deep in farm country and as per the game’s objective, are already well and truly lost.

When the road abruptly stops, we do a U-turn and consult the next card: ‘Take the first letter of the name of the youngest person in the car and go to the closest town or suburb starting with that letter’. Google shows that the nearest place starting with C (for my son Charlie) is an unfamiliar beach 30km to the west, so we head in that direction.

The road stretches out ahead, lined with hedges and pretty wildflowers, and we curve over dry hills dotted with hay bales and ramshackle barns. The scenery whizzing by is not the stuff of postcards and guidebooks, but it certainly is idyllic. I point out a weathered scarecrow and an abandoned house covered in graffiti, and my daughter fawns over some miniature ponies grazing in a paddock. While we’re not in a hurry to get anywhere, we are pleased to pass the tractor holding up traffic.

Get Lost bushwalk INP

You never know where you'll end up when following the card game's instructions. Photo by Rachel Judkins.

Next, we turn over some activity cards: ‘Stop and take a selfie’ and ‘Stop and make a roadside sculpture out of whatever you find’. The selfie is quick and easy but the sculpture requires more time and creativity. Using branches and pieces of wood discarded on a grass verge, we construct a cool tripod structure and decorate it with leaves. It’s good, wholesome fun that has us giggling as we work.

‘Drive to the next signposted natural attraction you see’ takes a while to action, but when we finally spot a sign for a bushwalk, we pull over and oblige. Both kids are fairly reluctant hikers, but as I try to identify the birdsong in the native trees above, they happily take off ahead. 

Back in the car, there is a noticeable absence of whining about time and distance, or questioning when we are going to arrive. Instead, there is plenty of hilarity coming from the back seat as the kids put on terrible accents and recount highly embellished stories. My husband names some of the cloud formations we can see and, at one point, there is even a brief sing-along – the true marker of road trip success.

Rounding a corner, we finally catch a glimpse of the sea and head straight for it. There are rocks to be flung, shrieks at the low tide mud squelching between our toes, and while climbing a nearby tree, we are delighted to discover a teddy bears’ tea party set up in the branches. We take the hint and stop for our own little picnic.

After our seaside caper we are instructed to ‘Head North’, coincidentally the direction of the city and home. ‘Stop for ice cream!’ elicits some happy squeals, and we pull in at a roadside veggie shop for some real fruit ice cream. Quiet descends as everyone concentrates on catching the drips running down their cones, and we hit the road again with sticky chins and happy grins.

Get Lost icecreams INP

Stopping for ice cream is an popular part of the Getting Lost card game. Photo by Rachel Judkins.

‘Stop at the first park you see and have a swing’ creates the opportunity for some additional fresh air and play time, and ‘Drive to a house you used to live in’ provides an interesting nostalgia trip for me. Now back in familiar territory, all roads lead home and several hours after setting off into the unknown, we pull into the driveway, our game of Getting Lost coming to an end. 

As I shuffle the cards before putting them away, I feel a ripple of excitement not knowing where they will take us the next time we play. Since no two games are ever the same, the possibilities are endless.


Story by Rachel Judkins for the Autumn 2024 issue of AA Directions Magazine. Rachel Judkins is an Auckland-based freelance writer. 

Explore more from AA Directions magazine while you're here: 

More from AA Directions

Find out more

Tropical Tonga

Experience authentic island life and see humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Gisborne: sunshine, surf and stingrays

We take a family-friendly East Coast escape to explore the best bits of Gisborne. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Northern Explorer: train journeys and forgotten worlds

Discover a forgotten world adventure via the Northern Explorer train. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Road trip: Wellington to Golden Bay

Cross the Cook Strait to discover the top of the South Island - from artistic Nelson to gorgeous Golden Bay. Read the story . . .