Hopelessly Lost, But Making Good Time

Years ago, my friend Don stated that the above would be the title of his autobiography, should he ever decide to write one.  When it comes to life paths, Don is actually one of the LEAST “lost” people I’ve ever known.  He’s wanted to be a writer since he was old enough to hold a pencil and I’m not sure he’s ever made a living doing anything else which is pretty extraordinary.  He’s been married to his wife, Nan, for nearly 30 years and they are one of the happiest, most well adjusted couples I’ve ever known.  They also don’t have any children, which says a lot.  😉

My own life path has been somewhat more circuitous, but here’s an interesting thing you probably don’t know about me.  I’ve never been lost geographically.  I always have a complete, innate sense of where I am on the planet.  The odd thing about this is that I find GPS devices incredibly confusing.  It’s like they upset my own internal compass somehow.  I don’t particularly like them, and if I wasn’t interested in geo-caching I’d probably never consider getting one.

Maps, on the other hand, are my friends.  I love maps, looking at them, pouring over them, trying to get the lay of the land of a place before I go there.  Maps translate into my own geographic processor quite well.  When I was walking in Spain, I got to Pamplona early in the day of walking and after my companions and I had claimed our bed, we decided to explore the city.  We made our way to in information center and found a couple of touristy type maps.  My companions were German and we were all delighted to find literature there in our respective languages.  After we left the center, they wanted to go back toward where we had started from, which was quite a walk by the way we came.  I started walking in nearly the opposite direction.  They were reluctant to follow me, but I kept telling them we were okay, that where we wanted to be was “just over there” and I kept pointing.  Sure enough, we walked through a series of small side streets and suddenly we were in the plaza.  Going back the way we had come would have taken nearly half an hour.   I don’t know how I knew where the plaza was because I didn’t look at the map other than just to orient myself in the information center.  I just KNEW where it was.

When I’ve lived in different places or when I visit, one of my favorite things to do is just to drive around or walk around and get “lost”.  I go down side roads and criss-cross through neighborhoods and try to remember street names.  I like seeing where curvy little roads end up–usually back on the main road I left a while back, just further down the line.

I find it hard to understand it when people say they have no sense of direction.  How do you not have a sense of direction?  Even in Australia, on the other side of the world, I knew where I stood.  The sky was different and I had a definite sense of my orientation being “opposite” from what it usually was, but I felt as comfortable wandering around Brisbane and Adelaide as I do in Pueblo or Denver. 

What about you?  Do you wing it or do you need that GPS?  Elaborate.

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8 thoughts on “Hopelessly Lost, But Making Good Time

  1. You are so lucky! I am one of those with absolutely no sense of direction. I wish I had one. My parents and only sibling have a terrific sense of direction. My mom’s mom and I did not and actually drove down the same street three times (while thinking it was a whole new street) looking at Christmas lights. The third time we realized that we were on the same street again, I had to pull over because we were laughing so hard. It is a great memory. However, it is frustrating and sometimes scary being unable to find my way around. I don’t go hiking by myself, or play golf by myself, or go on long trips by myself because of it. I would gladly trade many of my “talents” for two things: a sense of direction and the ability to sing on key.

    Another weird thing is that I feel totally lost in a town that has a grid of numbered streets going one way and lettered streets going the other. I feel more at home in a place where all the roads are at weird angles and curvy with named roads. I tend to recognized the “feel” of an intersection rather than the names. Don’t know how to explain it other than it is the same way different towns have a different feel to them. It is so strong to me that I sometimes can’t stay in a town I am visiting.

    I frequently get turned around in houses I am remodeling until I get used to it and that can take a week or two. And if I stay away from the house for a month or so, I get lost again when I first go back. Same with driving to a friend’s house I haven’t been to in a while. I have to get directions again and ask if the the red barn is still there. Once someone repainted their mailbox and I went past their house 3 times and finally called to ask them to meet me at the end of the drive so I could find them. Pitiful, isn’t it?

    • Hi, Ruth and welcome! That’s very interesting about your sense (or lack of) direction. After I posted this I thought it might be interesting to do some research on this subject. Another item to the list of things to look up at the library! Outside Magazine had an article a while back that posed the theory that using GPS a lot actually worsened one’s sense of direction. I would agree with that, but for those who really are challenged, I’m sure they are a godsend. Come back again–I know you’ve bookmarked me, right?? 😉

      • I have your URL memorized! I check at least once a day to see if there is anything new. I follow about 15 blogs and enjoy yours a lot because you are so good with words.

  2. Another thing that you and I have in common, GG! I can’t remember ever being lost, and I really, really don’t like GPS.

    Recently, when my brother and his family were visiting, my sister in law asked me about going out to the coast. I pulled out a map but she wasn’t interested because she was planning on getting there with just the info from her GPS. I pretty much had to force her to look at the map to understand that there were many different ways to get where she wanted to go. She does well with the GPS, overall, but it’s just not for me.

    I also have a friend like Ruth. This gal gets lost in her own neighborhood. She will often need someone to drive out to wherever she is so that she can follow them home. I can’t fathom that but there you go.

  3. e–I can’t fathom it either, but here’s a weird thing–I once had a dream when I was a little kid, VERY young, maybe 7 years old and I dreamt that I WAS lost and couldn’t find my way home. It was dark and I was on a street with lots of streetlights and I remember being alone and crying. I have never forgotten that dream, so if that’s how people with bad senses of direction feel, I completely sympathize!

  4. My sense of direction is very good but not as good as yours, because I have trouble orienting myself here in the US whereas it’s never a problem at home in Australia. Here I have to tell myself which way is north, east, etc, because I constantly feel like the compass points are 45 degrees off. i.e. when I’m facing north I feel like I’m facing east, etc. The funny thing is that when I’m in London I feel like directions are completely reversed; I don’t know why my sense of the compass points isn’t the same everywhere in the northern hemisphere.

    Even here, however, I usually have a much better idea of where things are and where I am than does my American partner who has lived here her whole life, because I can get a mental map of where things are in relation to other things fairly easily whereas she is not a very visual person and can’t do that. She has an extremely hard time in Australia finding her way around, and is not much better here when she has to go outside her immediate daily radius.

    It seems that my internal compass relies on a combination of where the sun is and visual clues from my surroundings, but where the sun is at any given time is not just where I expect it to be here in the US so I have to rely more heavily on other cues.

    • Maju, I did have a little bit of disorientation shortly after I got to Australia. I had to reorient myself with the compass, as you said. The sky seemed “off”. But once I got into the cities where we were visiting and started walking, things seemed to right themselvs. Isn’t that an interesting phenomena?

  5. I don’t get lost. I can “see” where I need to go and just get there. It is like I have google earth in my head. I have driven across country several times without a map or GPS and ended up right where I wanted to be.

    I love driving with people who don’t know I can do that and pretend we are lost. OK so I have an evil streak in me. I always see to know where north is.

    BTW geo caching is FUN. I just wish I could do it with maps.

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