Getting Lost the Right Way (and Avoiding the Wrong)

Road trips are magical. The open road, the endless possibilities. But you know what isn’t so magical? Getting lost in the middle of nowhere (read: out in the boondocks where not even the coyotes know where the closest gas station is). That being said, there is a right way and a very, very wrong way to get lost on a trip.

If you want to get lost and enjoy yourself, it’s best to have a plan in place. Seems counterintuitive, yes. But getting lost on purpose is more organized than it sounds. To start, know the highways nearby and keep in mind that the point of getting lost on purpose is to see new things. When lost the right way, it’s certainly not about the destination, which is good to keep in mind. For one, make sure your tank is completely full.

Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the countryside with only a quarter tank and no sign of civilization in sight.

Don’t trust that GPS will always be there for you. Like that one friend, it probably won’t be (Totally not something that happened to me recently in rural south Georgia, not at all). Depending on your carrier, data connection and location services can be spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. Don’t be like me, who learned this the hard way.

Use GPS even if you think you remember the way back. The last drive I went on, I followed directions very carefully getting there and believed that I would be able to remember the turns in reverse going home.This resulted in what I like to call: a disaster. What I didn’t consider was the fact that rural Georgia looks completely different at night, when every tree looks the same and you have the added hazard of deer all over the roads. I knew I was lost after twenty minutes, but I kept driving, foolishly positive I’d eventually find the right road again.

Maps are your friends. Remember how your parents always told you to keep a map or atlas in your glove box? They weren’t just being old-fashioned. When GPS has failed and you longer recognize any landmarks, a map is your only hope (barring meeting a friendly stranger or an extra cell tower magically constructing itself in the next open field).

Print out directions beforehand. I know, I know. Printing out directions Google Maps is almost as dated as paper maps. But believe me, it can’t hurt. Even if you don’t print them, the screenshot feature on smart phones exists for a reason. Before you hit the road, coffee and snacks stocked and ready to go, pull up GPS while you have bars or Wi-Fi, and find the turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot them. And then, when you inevitably lose service at some point in your voyage, you still have access to your route. I didn’t do this, and by the time I had service again, I was two and a half hours away from home, when the drive should’ve taken an hour. (Do as I say, not as I do, my friends).

If you realize you’re lost and know where you took the wrong turn, GO BACK ASAP.

There comes a moment when you’re lost when you can usually pinpoint where you went wrong. When that happens, turn around as soon as you realize, despite the hope that maybe you’ll find a familiar street. Realizing you took a wrong turn is a sign from the universe that you need to go back, rather than trusting your foolish instincts. It’s a losing battle, and you will get more lost. It’s practically the law of the universe.

Just ask for directions, no matter how much you hate doing it.

This applies to everyone, and I’m ignoring the stereotype because it really isn’t just men. If you see a gas station or a small business, just stop. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will know how to get back to where you were headed, and you might stumble upon a cool store or attraction or monument that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The moral of the story, friends, is that getting lost can be an adventure. You learn things about the area, about yourself as a navigator (this could be good or bad) and best of all, you have a story to tell at the end of it. Just remember that if you’re gonna get lost, try to do it on purpose.


Originally published at TravelPRIDE.