Learning Your Way Around a New Town

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?


PS Variations of these tips have also helped me when traveling to a new city for a vacation!

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Miranda Mills

Love these tips! I always find moving somewhere new a bit of a nightmare because I have the worst sense of direction and ever and get lost so easily. Google Maps is definitely a godsend! I agree it's so important to just get out and about, and I like to make the exploring part as fun as possible – deliberately seeking out places I think I'll love.
Miranda xxx


These are great tips! I found myself navigating a new city in the summer of 2012, and while I had a smartphone at the time it wasn't the same as having one today. The maps weren't always accurate, and using data wasn't always an option. I had to embrace wandering around and getting lost. I didn't have a car (and it was a city that you kind of needed one), so I would hop on a bus only half sure that it was the right one to get on.

One of the things that helped me the most was checking Google maps before I left my house to see the directions and figure out how to get where I was going. I would sort of study them ahead of time, but when navigating I wouldn't actually have the map with me. I also really relied on other people knowing where they were going – I would still take on lead navigator so that I could learn and not always be dependant upon someone else, but I would have them there to help us out if I was completely wrong or turned around.

Sweet Spontaneity

Madeline Vied

I find going for runs in new places helps me get oriented. Even if you get a little turned around, finding your way back can really help cement an area, plus its streets, in your brain. Obviously, I don't do this in an area where I think there is danger and I always have my phone just in case I get TOO lost or need to call for a pick-up!

Laura Kathleen

Have you tried using Waze maps instead of Google? I used to use Google but I LOVE Waze now because I feel the arrival times are more accurate and it warns you if roads are closed and if there are objects in the road or accidents! Learning a new town can be hard, but it's so much fun to explore! Enjoy exploring your new city 🙂

– Laura

Laura Aime Vous

Lauren Scorzafava

I totally agree with you! Instead of freaking out when you get lost if you just embrace it and think of it as an opportunity to learn where things are. I found my GPS helped a lot as well when I moved for school. I don't like to use my cell phone while driving so I would look up where I wanted to go and just plug the address into my GPS.

Lauren Elizabeth
Petite in Pearls

Deirdre Murray

I full-heartedly agree with #4. Since moving to Boston, I've been lost so many times. Getting lost can be time consuming and scary at points, but you're always seeing a new place you've never been.
One thing I'd add is asking for help from a local. When I went to NYC for the first time by myself this summer, I asked my NYC friends for basic advice (restaurants, tips, etc.) and they were extremely enlightening-things you'd never be able to find online. Loved this post and will keep your advice for the next time I move!

Le Northern Belle

These are even great tips for cities you've lived in for a while. I'm from Toronto and there's probably a bunch of places I haven't seen even though I lived there for my whole life (like I've never seen the CN Tower in my 20 years in this city). You'd be surprised with things you'll find.



Google maps all the way!! I lived overseas for 6 years and never drove, just took incredibly efficient public transportation everywhere. Now I live in LA, city of cars and freeways, and Google Maps is my lifesaver.


Thank you for your lovely article. Having fears and getting lost has made my life miserable because I travel a lot and drive , so any tip from somebody who has a positive approach is great. I see now it is a skill actually. I decided it is doable and that I can learn.