If you want to travel on your own, you may regret snoozing through your Astronomy and Geography classes. The ability to identify landmarks and sun and star positioning are indispensable tools that permit the traveler to navigate anywhere in the world. A simple, working compass is also handy. You may have heard the stories about deadly reliance on GPS, such as The GPS: A Fatally Misleading Travel Companion.You could also take along my husband, a retired Navy captain, with extreme competency in navigation, but I don’t plan to lend him out any time soon.
I’ve been fortunate to have him as my companion on our many excursions, not just to other lands, but around the neighborhood as well. He pointed out a building on a main road as the turning point to our street, so I can easily find my way home. When we travel, he is my navigator. Sometimes it takes a little longer to arrive at our destination, but we still get there. He is always keenly aware of where the sun or stars are located in reference to wherever we may be. Without those heavenly bodies, he looks for other landmarks: coastlines, rivers, railroads, mountain ranges, and so on to keep us on the right path, while other people still wander around without a clue.
A few pointers: Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Look up. See that church steeple over there; the green roof? Make that your marker. In the morning, the sun rises in the east, so orient yourself from there. In the afternoon, the sun is in the west. If you want to go east, go away from the sun. At high noon, you may just have to wait awhile. The sun sticks right to the middle. At night, you need to find the North Star for your northern point. It’s the brightest star in the night sky.
If you’re interested in learning more of my husband’s techniques, I recommend the article “Navigate without GPS” from Off-Road Magazine, which provides a great introduction for becoming self-reliant while traveling.
Good luck in your travels and Bon Voyage.