I’m the navigator in the family. I know it defies gender stereotypes, but I’m the one who’s great with directions. (B does all of our long-distance driving, so we’re a good team.) If I’ve been somewhere once, I can almost always find my way back. At any given moment, no matter where I am, I know where north is.
I’ve had this built-in compass for as long as I can remember, but I never realized how much I rely on it until I got married and began traveling with my husband. I started noticing particular things I do when I arrive in a new place, and it’s always the same…
First, if I don’t already have a map of the place I’m visiting, I immediately find one and orient myself. I need to have a sense of where I am, where my hotel/room is, where the main roads are, and where things are in relation to one another. Then, after studying the map and settling in, I’ll take a stroll so I can internalize what I’ve seen on the map. If I don’t know where north-south-east-west are, I feel completely disoriented and can’t enjoy myself.
This is also true when I’m driving anywhere. As long as I know the direction I’m heading in, I’m fine. But if I’m suddenly confused, I feel anxious and immediately scramble to get my bearings. Once my compass is engaged again, my blood pressure lowers and I can relax. I never completely trust navigation systems or even smartphone directions; I feel best with a (current) printed map in hand.
I remember sharing this with one of my brothers (who’s traveled around the world), and he told me he does the same thing whenever he’s in a new place. It got me wondering whether this is just something your born with, or something you learn while growing up (or some combination of both).
I don’t remember where I read it, but apparently, if you grew up in a rural area, you tend to have a much better sense of direction than if you were raised in a city or town. Which makes sense to me: Where I grew up, some roads didn’t have names; you found your way because you knew the landmarks, where the sun rises and sets, and where things are in relation to each another. Rural people tend to really know the land, and they’re usually more in tune with weather, seasons, the phases of the moon, and have a natural sense of time based on where the sun is in the sky. All of this no doubt develops a strong sense of direction in a person as they grow up.
I’m curious: Are you also the kind of person who needs to know where north is, always travels with a map, and feels super anxious if you’re lost? Do you have a built-in compass, or are you directionally challenged?
Image via calsidyrose