Are you one of those people who manages to get lost in their own living room? Well, we’ve got you covered…
Thanks to our amazing patent system, here at Gone Travelling, we can make sure you never get lost ever again (well, almost).
Rocking up in a strange new city and wandering a few blocks is great. But then suddenly you realise, hey… Where am I? And where’s my hotel? Also why can’t anyone understand my pronunciation of the name of my hotel. Oh my God, are those men ARMED??
Getting lost is pretty standard for most travellers. At some point you’re not going to have a clue where you are, even if you’re pretty sure you do know where you are.
I’ve wandered my fair share of obscure towns and cities (before Google Maps too) so I have a few knacks to make sure I never get lost. (Disclaimer: I do get lost sometimes but I usually manage to get un-lost).
1. Look At A Map
Before you do anything, look at a map of your new environment. It might be a new town or city, it might be a national park. But just familiarise yourself with the outline, any key landmarks, distances between points A and B and then B and C.
You don’t need to study the map in detail, but an awareness of the shape and layout of your surroundings is key to not getting hopelessly lost.
If you can get a copy of the map, either a paper copy or on your phone, then do so. Paper copies are better as they don’t run out of battery, obviously. You’ll find free maps for almost every town or national park in information centres or local stations.
2. Find A Landmark
Near your hotel/start point will be a landmark. Doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it’s something memorable. It could be a plaza, it could be a shop (don’t use 7 Eleven as your landmark as they’re everywhere, especially in Asia), it could be a mountain or road.
Stand outside your hotel/start point and take a look around. If all else fails, you’re going to ask how to get to that landmark. A nice tall landmark helps, like a skyscraper or hill or anything visible from miles away.
Take a mental picture. In fact, take a real picture on your digital camera or phone.
3. Pay Attention
As you’re wandering, awestruck at your new surroundings, try and register where certain things are in relation to where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
For example, you get to a complicated junction and realise that as you walk out straight ahead is shop, mural or billboard. Then, just pay attention to the next route you take in relation to where you’ve come from.
You don’t have to stop and register it every time, just taking stock of surroundings in relation to your route can save a lot of time and hassle.
4. Google Maps Offline
These days you can save a copy of Google Maps offline so you don’t even need to connect to the internet. So long as your phone can triangulate via WiFi you should be able to work out where you are.
Also ‘Favourite’ your hotel or waypoint so that it shows up as a star on the map.
As an additional point, make sure you have enough battery on your phone and/or a charger/battery pack.
5. Take A Hotel Business Card
Assuming it’s your hotel you need to get back to, grab a business card. Often they have a map on the back, or at the very least they have the address. Pretty much every hotel or hostel will have a business card – or, if you’re staying in an Air BnB or Home Exchange, your host will normally draw on a map for you.
6. Signs Are Your Friend
Pretty much everywhere in the world are sign posts. They will point in the direction of important things like stations, plazas/squares, beaches, information bureaus, airports. Paying attention to signs, even when you don’t need them is quite a good way to stay un-lost.
If you pay attention to certain landmarks as you go you should also be able to work out where some of these things are in relation to your start point.
7. The Sun Rises In The East And Sets In The West
No matter where you are the sun does the same thing – rises in the east, sets in the west. By working out what time of day it is, you can normally work out roughly which way is north/south/east/west.
If you’re in the wild this can be a serious life saver. If you’re not too sure, plunk a stick in the ground and make a note of where the shadow falls. Give it ten minutes and see where the shadow has moved. That will give you the indication of which way the sun is travelling…
8. The North Star
If you’re off to wander in the wild familiarise yourself with where the north star is in the night sky. Like the movement of the sun, this is a great way to orientate yourself if you’re a long way from human landmarks. In fact it’s kinda essential knowledge if you’re hiking or sailing…
9. Natural Waypoints
Rivers flow to the sea. If you’re completely lost in the wild and you find a river then just follow it. At some point it will lead you to civilization. The same with rivers in a city, they usually will take you through a major part of the city where you should be able to establish your bearings.
Roads and railway tracks too will also point you in the right direction, so if you’re in the vast outdoors keep an eye out for one of these.
10. Learn Some Language
You don’t have to be able to converse fluently, but being able to say ‘Where is the…’ should be one of the first things you learn in any language. If you’re heading to a country where you don’t speaka da lingo, learn to ask for directions and understand the response.
Also be aware, help isn’t the same in every language, so perhaps learn that too.
If you think we’ve missed anything and you’ve got some surefire ways to avoid getting lost, please comment below!