PS Variations of these tips have also helped me when traveling to a new city for a vacation!
When I moved to New York City after graduation, I didn’t realize how lucky I had it. I was constantly going back and forth between DC and NYC throughout my senior year at Georgetown. I would go for the weekend or just a day, but eventually figured out the subways and got myself around town pretty well. By the time I moved, I felt fairly comfortable navigating the city. Of course, I grew more familiar with it every passing month but the initial start wasn’t bad at all.
That said, moving to Connecticut has been the complete opposite.
I had no idea where anything was. Even the apartment complex confused me. (So many elevators and hallways!!!)
I was constantly getting lost around town and learning the exits for interstate was also novel for me. (I haven’t really driven all that much… only a couple years in high school and I rarely ever got on the interstate in Florida!) I’m still getting the hang of it, but my mental map of the town we live in and the surrounding towns is getting better by the day! Here’s how I’ve been figuring out the lay of the land:
ONE // Get Out and Go
This is definitely an obvious one, but if you’re out and about you will eventually start picking up on where you are. I was trying to say yes to everything so I could drive to new restaurants, check out new towns, get more familiar with the roads, etc. It was so frustrating having no sense of direction the first couple of weeks. Some days I honestly felt discouraged from the leaving the apartment because it felt like such a chore knowing I would for sure get lost. But it did pay off!
I started small, keeping my radius of where I was going relatively close. I made a list of places I needed to find and would be going to on a regular basis. The grocery store. The gas station. Target. A good coffee shop. The post office.
TWO // Google Maps for the Win
I’m so relieved to live in 2015 with access to Google Maps at all times on my phone. It has significantly helped the process of getting around. The trick is to not let it be a crutch. The first week or so, I was just using Google Maps with the volume as loud as possible so I wouldn’t miss a direction. There was definitely a learning curve even still, but luckily Google Maps is great at recalculating the route 😉 Eventually, I could turn the volume down and then I didn’t have to look. (At least for my normal routine places!)
I actually didn’t do this at first but have since done it… I had been using the navigation so much that I didn’t even think to use Google Maps to help see the “big picture.” I started zooming around the map to see familiarize myself with different town names, to play around with driving distances, and to just really picture where I was and where I was going. Not just taking one step at a time.
THREE // Check for Landmarks
This is such a “Meesh move” (aka my mom). If you ask my mom for directions, she will mention street names sort of… but her directions are all based on landmarks. “Turn right at the church. Drive past the house with the four car garage and then turn left when you see the huge tree. It will be right past the big blue building.” Because there’s no denying the fact that I am turning into my mom, I will admit that I have been using landmarks to get around. I know which company sign I turn right at to get to the coffee shop, the graffiti that signals my turn is coming up, and the rest stop right before the exit I have to take!
FOUR // Embrace Getting Lost
Getting lost has actually really helped me get more familiar with the area. I’ve even found a better shortcut after taking a wrong turn and I stumbled on a new groomer for Teddy when I accidentally drove down the wrong street.
Then there are the times when I convince Garrett which way is the right way and I’m so wholeheartedly sure that I am correct and we drive and drive and, um, drive in the totally wrong direction. I can say this from experience, if I am wrong about a turn, I’ll never make the mistake again!
Anyone have any tips for getting around a new town?