6 Tips on Finding Your Way Around While Traveling
- This tip is really a two for one. Firstly, you’ll know all of the areas in the place you’re in in no time, and secondly, you get to feel special when you type in “I’m going to be here on this day!” and ten people send you messages all “Let me hang out with you!!”
So last year I was in Saigon, and I did this- put on that I’m already there, got the messages, felt special. Then when I came down from my ego high, I replied to the first one. Within 30 minutes the girl I’d been talking to turned up at our meeting place, gave me a helmet and took me everywhere.
It was a great way to find out where everything was, as well as ask her literally every question I could think of.
- Google Maps
- So the reason I was in Saigon was that I was about to start a solo motorbike journey from the Mekong Delta in the South of Vietnam through the country and up to Hanoi. Instinct was my map and the road was my compass. Then when I would arrive at the end of a road after riding down it for a few hours, I realised that instinct is a terrible map and the road being a compass just doesn’t make any sense, and I turned to Google Maps.
Two things about this- firstly, you can use this without a data pack. Because it works on the GPS, and not the 3G (or 4G for you space age guys), you can be stuck in the middle of an African swamp and you’re fine. Well, obviously you’re not fine, you’re more like Atreyu’s horse in the NeverEnding Story, but at least you know where it’s all going down.
Now when I say it works without 3G - directions don’t. You can’t search for a place. But that little blue dot that signifies where you are- that’s essential.
Finally, with Google Maps, don’t forget. Zoom. You zoom that guy right in there, because every time you don’t zoom, they build an uncrossable river on the road you’re on that you would have seen if you’d just zoomed. Yeah they build a river. It’s a lot of work but it teaches you a lesson.
- Find a hard copy map
- You don’t want to rely on technology if you’re lost. Get yourself a hard copy of a map, even if it’s a simple one from a little shop that has monuments and places of interest. it’ll take some orienteering skills, but you’ll be in much better shape to get where you need to go, even if it’s “past the big triangle thing, across the road shaped like the nike symbol and through something that looks grassy…"
- Learn how to use a compass
- So you’re phone’s bust. You’re in the rainforest in the wet season. You’re up a mountain and your hard copy map from that little shop blew away. It’s compass time. Even if all it tells you is North is, that’s so much more information than you were working with about 10 or 11 seconds ago, running after your map as the breeze claimed it as one of it’s own.
Think on a big scale if you have to. “Right, if North is that way, that means the beach is over there, and over the other way is just more jungle. Let’s go that way.”
Even if you have to go on a bigger scale- “Right, I’m in the rockies and I live in New York. East it is.” Good pair of shoes and a protein bar and you’ll be home in no time.
- Ask the locals
They’re not going to make fun of you. They’re not going to send you to a weird abandoned factory where their mate Jeff is waiting with a van. They’re much more likely to begin to tell you where to go, realise that you’re just nodding and smiling and offer to take you there. My rule is if you trust the vibe, and you trust the guy, go for it. Unless he says “Sorry I’ve just gotta get this… Yeah Jeff? It’s time."
- Don’t - Just Get Lost
If I were to have to condense this list into just one, it would be this one. Think about it, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if you can’t find your way?
You’ll have to book into a hostel that even the teenage clubbing backpackers wouldn’t stay in?
You can deal with that.
All the hostels are closed down, someone’s stolen your wallet, phone, map AND compass and you have to sleep at a bus stop propped up against a bin?
We’ve all been there.
A much more likely scenario is you’ll embark on a journey, a quest that never would have presented itself to you. You’ll meet your new best friends, you’ll do things you never would have decided to do by yourself, and you’ll have a ridiculous travel story to tell.