I cannot count the number of times I’ve gotten lost. Honestly, it’s ridiculous. I am so dependent on my phone for navigation that I always carry my charger with me. If I do not have wi-fi, data, or for the love of God, my charger, my mouth begins to taste like copper pennies. Hands are clammy. Breaths are shorter. I’m scared shitless. As an avid traveler who enjoys visiting remote places, this is problematic.
Navigation is a fundamental skill needed in daily life, especially when embarking on a new turf. Here are some tips to help you find your way.
Write It Down
Writing boosts memory. It increases your ability to retain and understand information. Jotting down your directions will help you memorize where you are going. And, if you do find yourself lost without a navigator, you can refer to your notes. Knowing you have some directions to refer to, regardless of technology, will help you navigate with more confidence. Provide yourself with multiple hard resources by grabbing a business card or flyer from a local business (an especially helpful tip if you’re staying at a hotel). Knowing the address of one location can help provide reference to others.
Look at the Roads
If you’re completely lost, find the largest road. Bigger roads are designed to carry more traffic, which means it is a main route. If you follow this technique you will increase your chances of finding the town center or other road signs to guide you. Pay attention to the flow of traffic — where do the most people seem to be heading? This technique doesn’t provide exact directions but it will push you in the right direction.
Regardless of your sense of direction, it’s important to have resources. Having the necessary tools is part of preventing bigger problems. Keep the following items in your car or backpack when you travel:
- Phone and charger
- Credit card and/or cash
- Water bottle
Having emergency money or a cozy jacket is beneficial if you become lost, but it’s also helpful if your car breaks down or a freak storm rolls in. While indirect, part of navigation is ensuring you have the necessary tools to solve a predicament.
Know Your Cardinal Directions
North, east, south, west: your cardinal directions. This concept should be simple but I have always had a hard time knowing which direction I’m facing, making navigation a real pain, although I’ve learned to use the sun. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. At noon the sun is directly overhead. It takes a little practice, but knowing your cardinal directions is one of the most important navigation skills. Having an idea of which direction you’re headed will help you find your way.
Getting lost is not fun. It’s stress-inducing, and in some instances, terrifying. If you are freaking out, pull over. Aimlessly wandering will only make you more lost. If you are lost, chill out. Take a deep breath. Find a safe place to stop. Take a break at a restaurant for a hot tea or sip on your water bottle in the car. Once you’re calm you can begin to map out where you’re headed or at least think rationally about your options.
Technology is an awesome tool. Our phones make navigation easy. Technology helps us communicate when we’re having car problems; there are countless apps for travel. Smartphones are great, but when we don’t have them it quickly becomes apparent how reliant we are. Become better at navigating by using your phone less. Take a road trip with the sun as your guide. You will find your way.
When’s the last time you got lost? How did you find your way? —Alex