How I Improved My Sense Of Direction (10 Practical Tips)

A guide from someone whose sense of direction is poor to the point of far beyond what other people mean when they said, they have poor sense of direction.

Now let’s analyze your situation. So, you like to travel. You want to explore other places on your own. You want to feel independent. You want to go to beautiful tourist spots you’ve searched in the internet. And the idea to be there simply captivated your interest. You felt excited. You found a promo ticket from your favorite airline website. Without a second thought, you fill-up your itinerary details and placed a seat reservation to secure a window seat. Who doesn’t want to witness the shrinking of the buildings as the aircraft goes higher in the sky? Bottom line, you want to record the entire experience. If you and I are on the same picture, this article is for you.

Of course it is inevitable to feel head-over-heels with excitement having the idea of visiting a place we have never stepped in yet. While on top of this feeling, we make sure that the things needed for the trip were all covered. So all were set and you are good to go. But something bothers your mind. You acknowledged that you have poor sense of direction. So what if you will get lost? Subconsciously, you panicked. But try not to be. Just relax your mind and don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not alone in this dilemma. In fact, I am like you.

Do you know that one time I was trapped inside a mall? It was not because the doors were closed from outside but it was because I cannot find my way to the exit doors. And guess how many exit doors that mall have? There were three. Imagine how bad I felt during that time. And the mall wasn’t even that big to make people lost their way. The funny thing was while I tried my way out; I accidentally went inside the stock room of that mall. Of course employees working inside looked at me and from the looks of their eyes they knew that I was lost. Somehow their gaze whispered the words ‘So pity’ to my ears. But I raised my chin; stayed calm and pretended I was really looking for something or someone from that place. Gracefully, I exited the room before I make it obvious that I was literally lost. So I looked again but to no avail. Hence, I have resorted to my best option. I asked the guard. And indeed, the guard guided me and finally I saw where the exit was. Well obviously that was the exit door because I can see people queuing to get out. It was embarrassing but I have acknowledged that poor sense of direction is really part of being me.

I have never attempted to drive before not only because I was afraid of hitting something or someone but also I am really poor with directions. And perhaps I might caught myself being chased by a traffic officer because I have entered an off limit road. Sure I have my driver’s license with me all the time. And I always make sure that it is renewed regularly. But the funny thing was, while I’m not driving I use this driver’s ID as proof of my identity in case an establishment will ask me for two valid ID’s. But it’s alright. Anyway, I felt fine about it. At least the driver’s ID can serve its other purpose.

Ok, on a serious note here, I never address it as a sickness or disability because for me, it is not. I feel normal and active most of the time except that I cannot remember how to get to a place despite of my frequent visit. I scrutinized myself well and I have observed my actions to identify what may have causes this. And not to mention the ready information from the internet, I made lots of research about this condition. Many scientific terms have been said but I can’t really seem to find the best practical approach on how to deal with it. But definitely life goes on. And I accepted that I have this limitation. So I’ll just try my best to deal with it every day. And luckily, I have discovered techniques that will make it easier for me. And it might help you too one way or another.

So what are these easy tricks? Read on.

  1. BE MINDFUL. DON’T SLEEP.

First and foremost, you knew that you are different and you have some limits at a certain areas. You were caught up in a situation that you were clueless on your next move. Just hold your ground and never ever feel pity to yourself. You are special and nobody is perfect. In my own experience, I realized that I actually tolerated myself to be unmindful. In many occasions, I have allowed myself to skip small details which for me I thought it was irrelevant. But apparently, I was wrong. Those small details were still part of a main idea. Just following a simple logic here, the lesser the information we feed to our brain, the lesser information we can retrieve in the future too.

So having that said, citing a scenario can be our best teacher. So one morning, I was literally running because I have to catch Bus number 67. That was the bus that will go to my work place. I can’t afford to be late even for one minute because it will cause me to wait for the next bus. And for a country that has strict rulings on traffics and alighting passengers, my only option was to wait at the bus stations. So ok, I was able to catch that bus on my desired time. I got myself in and selected my seat. And since it will take 45 minutes to reach my work place, I have decided to pull out my Iphone and tuned to my favorite song lists. I have attached my earpiece and placed it between my ears. So while listening, I closed my eyes hoping I can borrow some time to nap or relax myself. So was there an opportunity loss here? Yes there was. Well aside from not noticing that there was a gorgeous person sitting next to me, I actually missed the opportunity of picturing a map in my mind by remembering the landmarks on our way going to my desired destination. So the only thing I remembered was just the beginning and the end of the entire trip. In between, I have no idea. So when someone will ask me how to get there, my mind went blank.

2. BUY A POCKET NOTEBOOK AND A PEN. BRING IT ALWAYS WITH YOU.

We need to understand that not all people today carry smart phones. Some still prefer to carry a traditional phone as long as it allows them to call and receive a call. In my case, I’m fine with the idea of using a basic phone as long as it is working fine. So if you are one of us, this approach will suit you best. But you know what, even though I have a smart phone with me, I still find it more convenient to have a small notebook in my bag at all times. In fact, I write down all the contact numbers that I have in my phone. This is just in case I lost my phone or if not I can’t find a battery-charger. Another thing that the notebook can serve you well is when it carries the details like the name of a landmark you first saw while you are on your way to your desired place. Mark it as your starting point. So in case you got confused in finding your way back, you simply scan your notebook. Get the name of the landmark and you can ask around to know the road that can take you there. I guess I am traditional but better prepared than sorry.

Well anyway, a wide variety of information is readily available in the internet nowadays. You just type the keyword; click the search button and everything will be right before your eyes. At times we hate to carry many printouts from the previous research that we had. So we prefer what’s handier. So the pocket notebook will surely do its best. Be resourceful. Conduct research on the whereabouts of the place where you want to go. Write all information you think useful in the future. You don’t know when circumstances will demand for it. Keeping information like addresses of a shop or restaurants, contact numbers of hotels, contact persons, name of establishments, landmarks or even drawings of logos is a wise tactic.

3. ACT COOL BUT NEVER FORSAKE THE OLD WAYS.

That moment when I got inside the plane that would take me to a foreign country, I knew I have to be alert at all times. Since I knew that it’s hard for me to recall places, I see to it that I packed up myself with things that can be my rescue in case of emergencies. I have with me the mobile number of my friend, the owner of the house where I get to stay, my would-be employer address and of course my family contact numbers back home. I have also a pocket map and a compass just in case I’ll be landed to nowhere. Witnessing the advancement of technology nowadays brought us face-to-face with much convenience. We can always store our itinerary details inside our mobile phones, tablets and laptop. And we can always browse googlemaps.com or the weather conditions in the internet. All comes so handy that we tend to forget sometimes its limitation. We tend to forget that all electronics can be tossed wet resulting to a malfunctioned system. Battery power won’t last long in case you were stranded in a place where no chance to charge the battery. Or gadgets can be stolen anytime by thieves without noticing. All these can happen anytime. So you have to act wiser. Enjoy what technology can offer to you today but never underestimate what the traditional ways can still do for you. Keep a small pocket notebook with you at all times during travel. Others think that using a notebook to keep information is an old school and awkward to be seen in public. In fact, even the news respondent nowadays used their smart phones or tablets when recording and delivering their report. Practices like this which is visibly apparent from television or Social Medias made us forget that our ways from the past can still support us now and maybe even in the future. So don’t be shy. Buy a small notebook. Draw you map. List all the landmarks. Choose your cover page. Be free. Be confident.

4. MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL.

Once we acknowledged our limitations, we tend to be extra careful with our actions. During my first week of stay in Singapore, I was occupied with the requirement procedure. And that includes securing my work pass to validate my stay. My employer gave me the instruction on how to get to that agency where I’ll be interviewed and be asked for my credentials. And if I’ll pass their standards, I would be able to get a work pass that will validate my period of stay in the country. To help me how to get there, the HR gave me a map that will give me direction. She also gave me a copy of my appointment letter with the Ministry of Manpower agency. The way she explained on how to get there sounded so easy to a person with no difficulties in finding places. But in my case, I knew it would take me some time to reach there. The appointment was set at 9 o’clock in the morning. She told me that it would take an hour to reach the place via MRT from my place. Scaling my knowledge-rate of MRT directions from 1 to 10, I would say I was still at 5 during that time. That was still my second day in that country. So there’s a big chance that I might take the wrong train. Afraid to miss my appointment and that one-time opportunity, I plotted an itinerary for me to manage my time well. And it worked! I got there on time and Viola! I passed the interview.

So let me share with you what’s inside in my itinerary list during that time.

4:30 AM Wake up call. Take shower and prepare myself.
5:30 AM Have breakfast at the nearest cafeteria or hawker.
6:00 AM Walk to the MRT station and check the MRT map board to know which train to take.
7:00 AM Alight at the station of the place where my appointment was set and follow the direction instructed.
8:00 AM Be in the building of the agency. Collect myself and be prepared for the interview. Get the time to recheck myself if I look presentable and calm. Review my documents and references.
9:00 AM Appointment interview starts.

So this is same thing if you travel. Before you set your foot inside that plane, be sure that you have your itinerary with you like the one I shared above. Put it in your smart phone or tablet and you can also write it down on your small notebook. It will always be on time for a person who knew how to manage his time well. Be time conscious and luck will be on your side. Like they said, “Early bird catches the fat worm.”

5. NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK AROUND.

After alighting from that train, my dilemma has started. I need to locate the building and be there before my appointment time. As I started walking, I was scanning in my head for details that fits to the description of every building I saw. I read the street name and checked some landmarks. After walking for some time, I noticed that there’s no sign of these landmarks they’ve mentioned. At that moment, I feared that I took the wrong route. So I have decided to ask someone. There was a guy on his 20’s coming towards my direction. I took the courage and said, “Excuse me. Can I ask for your help? I think I am lost.” And luckily, he replied politely and waited for me to further explain my dilemma. I showed him the map handed to me by our HR officer. He assessed the map and my current location. He said that I am in the wrong route. I should take the opposite street and just walk straight ahead. Oh great! No wonder I haven’t spotted any of those landmarks mentioned in the guide. I thanked the guy and headed to the direction that he pointed out to me. After a few minutes of walking, I spotted the first landmark and told myself that I am now in the right track. Thank God, I asked for help! It saved me from missing that appointment and likely losing the job. So when caught in a situation of getting lost, never be afraid to ask. Put down your ego and never feel ashamed that an intelligent person like you actually got lost in a very small city. Just assess first if the person whom you are about to ask is unlikely to fool you or lead you to traps which lead me to my next topic.

6. BE ASSERTIVE YET PERCEPTIVE.

Nowadays, it is inevitable that many innocent people became victims by those who lured them with too good to be true promises. A simple asking of direction might lead you to be deceived, robbed or even hurt. It takes confidence to ask around and never feel ashamed to ask around for direction. However, you need to be extra careful when choosing the people whom you want to ask. It is important that you assess your surrounding first. If the only people you saw in the area is only yourself and a stranger guy, don’t rush to him immediately to ask direction. Check if he constantly looking at you. Assess his motives. Think of possibilities. He may be assessing you too and while he is checking on you, two possibilities are present. He noticed your distress and would like to really help you. Well, that is good. You can relax. But what if it is the opposite? He might have plans in his mind to his advantage. If you feel in doubt whether to ask him or not, just stay calm and confident. Wait until you will be in an area where you will be visible to many people. And when this happens, this is your queue to start asking. If you feel something is not right and you are in danger somehow, don’t panic and always have a presence of mind. Find your way out from the situation and ask for help from other people. Be confident but be vigilant.

7. TRUST YOUR GUTS. BE INTUITIVE.

Oftentimes the only person that can help you stay away from harm is yourself. It you feel that something is not right, then abstain yourself from doing it or at least delay your action for awhile. Do more assessment. Many people are blessed with strong intuition and insights. It is what they call the gut feeling that you suddenly sensed from your subconscious mind. If you are travelling alone, your courses of decisions relies on you alone. Connect to your intuition. If that decision feels right then go for it. But if doubts and fear of the unknown are troubling your inner peace, then you need to think twice. Ask for second opinion from friends or family.  They can help you out.

I was living alone abroad. During my first year of stay, I lived with other housemates from different countries. One time, a housemate of mine invited me to travel and visit her country with her. Since it will be my first time to see what her country looks like, I instantly accepted her invitation. She planned accordingly and I paid for the necessary fees for the transportation. She told me that she contacted a vehicle that would bring us to their country by land. As the week of the travel approaches, I began feeling uncertain about the trip. My intuition was so strong telling me to cancel my trip. I felt uncomfortable about the whole idea. On the day before the supposed to be travel date, I took the courage and told my housemate that I cannot come. I wanted to inform her politely as much as possible to not hurt her feelings. I told her that I am not feeling well and not fit to travel at that time. She still made me pay for the transportation but I just paid it without hesitation. After all, it was me who backed out the last minute. After I told her about it, I felt relieved. So I guess, what I did was right. After she came back from the trip, I asked her how it was. All she could tell me was she got sick and it required her to travel from one remote town to the other. There were questions in my mind and have chosen to keep it to myself. What’s important was I am safe and that decision felt right for me. No regrets.

There’s no harm if at times, we listen to our intuition. Be sensitive and think twice when deciding your next action.

8. TRY THE SOCIAL MEDIA. BE RESOURCEFUL.

Nowadays, many people especially the youngster have embraced what the modern technology has offered to us. With the trending of different social Medias like the famous Facebook, Twitter, Viber and many others, it’s very easy to seek help from your friends wherever you are. Just go to an area where you can hook up with free wireless internet connection and that’s it, the solution is at your hand. In case you need directions, you can simply message your Facebook friend who happens to know the place. You can send private messages to them directly to seek help. Just feel free to do what suits you. I have seen others who posted their distress messages via Facebook Wall which were openly available for public’s reading. Although I am not so sold out with the idea of showing off what I am doing or where am I in public, I knew there can be an advantage to that. Sure, you can get the assistance immediately. Out of 300plus list of  your Facebook friends, 20% more or less may have answers to your query. So yeah it can work. As long as you feel comfortable about it, go ahead. Be wise. Use your free resources.

Overseas calls are definitely not cheap. If at some point you want to talk to someone back home to get a clearer instructions that can help you out, there are software available that offers free calls like that of Viber. All you need is a wireless internet connection to hook you up. Again it’s free. So why not try it? If it doesn’t work for you, it’s alright. After all you didn’t spend any dime for it.

9. BUY SOME GADGET.

Number 8 advice won’t work for you if you don’t have a gadget that allows that software advancement. Wait, I’m sure you are thinking now that it’s too expensive to have that or your available money has more priority to attend to than buying a classy gadget. Your old phone for example, still working fine anyway. Well, this is just an option. If you feel it’s not time yet to have it, that’s alright. You can resort to the other options I have cited here like keeping a small notebook with you at all times. But if you can allow some extra cash for a smart phone, go for it. It doesn’t have to be the latest model or the famous brand. As long as it’s working and you find it easy and convenient to use, that is enough.

Raising money for it will make it bearable for you to have it too. Let’s say you aimed to buy it after six months. So why not start saving for it now? I remembered my 11-year old son when he aimed to buy something that he really wanted. One morning while I was cleaning the house, I noticed a small Peggy bank and there’s a note handwritten in pencil securely taped around it. I read the note and I saw the amount he wanted to raise. And below the amount, he put what he wants to buy. I was touched by his effort. He could have asked me to buy it for him but he didn’t. Instead, he made effort to raise the money by saving the portion of his daily school allowance. So if a sixth-grader can do this, why can’t we?

10. SAY HELLO TO MR. GOOGLE.

Whenever we are looking for more information from the internet, we always resorted to google.com or simply Mr. Google as I call it. For the past years, Mr. Google became my constant companion whenever I need to find some address or information about a place, establishment and even people. We can print maps and pictures to make it more convenient for us to find our way. Since technology is constantly evolving, there are satellites up there that can draw the map for us like for example, the route from the airport going to our desired destination. So how to get this information? Google it! And then all you have to do is to print it and keep it with you while travelling. So if you feel you are in doubt with anything especially details about the place that you planned to visit, just open google.com and enter the name of the place in the search box and hit the Search button. Take some notes, put it in your small notebook and who knows, you can make use of these information when you least expect it.

It is my habit that whenever I read some interesting information like facts or details about anything, I write it down in my notebook. I got amazed when I get to chance to scan what I have written so far. As I flipped the pages, I refreshed myself with this collection of data and I can even share my notes to my son or to my friends. And do you know that you can find amusement looking at the strokes of your own handwriting? Nowadays, people are so used to computer keyboards or simply pressing keys in the screen of a tablet or a smart phone. Try the handwriting again to exercise other muscles of your hand. Sure, there are health benefits that you can get from it too.

On a final note, oftentimes we neglected simple approaches like mentioned above. We tend to make everything more complicated by over thinking and over assessing things. Stop worrying and just be cool about it. Like what I have always said to my team whenever caught in a difficult situation, just go back to the basic and you will see that the solution was right there in front of you the whole time. By doing this, you can save time and energy. Be wise and keep it simple.

Cherry Seniel is the author of ‘A Timeless Heartbeat and North Emblem‘, the story of defying fate—a love of a lifetime. During the day, she works with her team and applies her knowledge in the field of Information Technology. In her free time, she reads anything she can find on the internet. Currently, she is working on her third novel that will be out early next year.
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