Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Out of all my senses, my vision is the strongest. I can see farther in the daylight and much more in the dark than most people. This has a significant impact on how I do things, whether it be giving directions or describing objects. Growing up in a small town also affected my perception and processing of the world around me. If I were asked to give directions, I'd tell you visual cues more than length measurements; I'd tell you what places to look out for more than I would say the distance.

For example, I'm more likely to tell you to keep driving til you see the yellow two story house on the left; take a left at the intersection and go past the cornfields, then take a right on the dirt road and keep going straight til you see the white farmhouse with the red barn. I use landmarks. It's sort of helpful (at least to me), especially when trying to find a place in a small town or a crowded neighborhood when you can't make out the building numbers. Of course, once I started living in the big cities and had to do long drives, my directions started including time; now I say things like how many hours a drive is supposed to be in addition to using landmarks.

It's not that I don't have a sense of distance. The thing is, I can tell how long a mile is a lot better by running than walking. It's not a problem if I'm going for a jog; but it is inconvenient when I'm required to be someplace where being sweaty is not a viable (or an attractive) option. It's just easier for me to rely on landmarks. I have a very good sense of direction. I can read a map with no problems, even in foreign countries. It doesn't even have to have a scale for me to figure out where to go, so long as I can recognize the landmarks on the map.

I don't mind getting lost--I eventually find my way, once I get oriented in the right direction, and so long as I have the sun and stars, I'll find my way. I could've been a sailor or a caravan merchant on the Silk Route. I've found some really fun and interesting things when going off the beaten path. But I've learned that some people don't like getting lost. So when I give directions, I try to keep them simple and tell them people what to look for and how long the drive should be.

Of course, this baffles some people when I end up giving them landmarks instead of miles. I suppose they think I ought to know distance since I'm really good at reading maps. But then I wonder, can anyone really tell how long a mile is without using their car's odometer or a pedometer? Or without a GPS for that matter?

Recently, a friend's husband asked me for directions to a place that I've been to a few times. It's a few hours away from me in the big city and I've driven there before. I had a hard time trying to explain to him what to look for. I told him that I just followed the road signs and head downtown. As I was giving him landmarks to look out for, he kept sighing and finally interrupted, saying that he wanted to know how many miles it would take. Okay, seeing as how he lived in a completely different city from me, I told him I had no clue. He got upset at that. I told him, Dude! I don't live where you are and I'm not a road atlas! He wanted to know how I got to this place the first time. So I told him, I got a map and I followed the road signs. Dude just started bitching and whining. Finally, I just told him to print out map and directions from the internet.

How do other people find their way around? Do they use miles or landmarks when giving out directions? I'm not sure how other people find their way around or give directions. But for me, landmarks work best when I need to find my way. I'm never sure how many miles my journey is going to take, but I do know when it's over, because I've arrived at the right place.


  1. How do other people find their way around? Do they use miles or landmarks when giving out directions?

    We use “kilometres” to find our way around…

    You know… the METRIC SYTEM?

    Like everybody else in the rest of the world except Burma, Liberia and the United States.

  2. And the UK Miss MJ , kilometres are an ungodly foreign measurement and the work of the devil !
    Mr E , I use a mixture of roadsigns and landmarks . Landmarks can be tricky if driving in heavy traffic as you tend to have to keep your eyes on the road and may miss them

  3. I'm a visual person too, especially when I'm asking for directions to a place. It doesn't help when someone says that Place B is two miles away from Place A. I usually ask them what store they're next to or near, or even across from. It helps a great deal.

  4. i'm more a combo person, written directions and landmarks. when i printout from the net, i highlight in yellow the places where i need to turn which drives the MITM mad because he relies on his hunter instincts. i KNOW wtf, right? anyway, i follow roadsigns, maps AND landmarks. xoxoxoxo

    (i am really directionally challenged btw, i also carry a compass!)

  5. I tend to learn a route visually and not bother with distance or roadway names. When giving directions, I do the opposite!

    Oh Hai MJ!

  6. I always turn left.
    I am often lost.
    Anyway, I'm here to give you a great big snog and to use your splendid tips.

  7. MJ, We can't trust a unit of measurement that's misspelled! Shouldn't it be kilometer, not kilometre? And what's the correct pronunciation? "Key Low Meet er" or "K'lah Met er"?

    Converting to the metric system would totally make hilarious changes some literary works and songs, i.e.

    The Proclaimers 500 miles would be:

    ...And I would walk 804.67200 kilometers
    and I would walk 804.67200 more.
    Just to be the man who walked a 1 609.344 kilometers
    To fall down at your door...

    Jules Vern's underwater adventure book would be retitled:

    111 120 Kilometers Under the Sea

    And that Robert Frost poem would end with:

    And kilometers to go before I sleep,
    And kilometers to go before I sleep....

    Beast, I use landmarks and roadsigns a lot! Along with my printed out map and road atlas. I find that some passengers are often useless when it comes to spotting landmarks or roadsigns--most are content to complain and make no navigational contributions at all!

    Tara, Those landmarks are useful! I use stores and gas stations and malls a lot--really any large noticeable building--when I'm giving out directions, esp in a crowded neighborhood to find those places!

    It's a much better navigational aid and you know you're close and going the right way when you see that store!

  8. Savannah, I do the same thing if I'm going to a new place--print out the directions and hi light the turns!

    And I also keep a road atlas in the car with me. If I stop for gas, I go over the map and try to memorize what landmarks or streets or turns are coming up.

    XL x2, I do that, too! Once I recognize where to turn and how long it's suppose to take me, I forget the other road names that I take to get to my destination.

    Now when people ask me, I say go print out the directions from the internet, esp. if they can't follow my landmarks and visual aids :)

    Scarlet B, Ah, thanks. Snogging is always welcomed, esp. from a lovely and gorgeous lady!

    I get lost a lot, too, but I don't panic. I just try to re orientate myself and find my way back.

  9. I would like 568 millilitres of beer - ridick olous! I never go anywhere meself - saves a lot of trouble. I would like to see the Taj mahal one day... where is it?

  10. Mutley, There's the original Taj Mahal in India and there's the Taj Mahal casino in New Jersey. The first is a memorial; the second has alcoholic drinks.

    I'm not sure how many milliliters are in a beer can--so I'll give you a whole 6 pack.

  11. I've lived in this little town for 33 years, and I don't know what most of the roads are called. I just know what they look like.

    I know that to get from A to B, I go by C, D and E, and to get from A to E, I go by F and G...but sometimes find B and E are right next to each other, and I had no idea.

    I suppose it's purely practical geographical knowledge, with no theory (mental map) at all.

  12. Kapi, We didn't have street names where I grew up! There was one main road that led to town and small little dirt roads that veered off the main road to our homes and farms.

    Ten years ago, when I first returned to visit home, I laughed when I realized that they had given the main road a name. And it's still just one main road going to town!

  13. I tend to go by landmarks as well (when not using portable crop circles) as my sense of direction is absolutely horrific. Although, I'm pretty good at following maps and other peoples directions. I can't give directions, though, so don't take any notice of any directions I might give you!

  14. IDV, I always travel with a road atlas in my car. And I like using maps to find my way around new places. Landmarks help out a lot.

    I'm pretty bad at giving directions when people start asking me things like how many miles it takes to get somewhere. That's when I tell them to try looking it up on the internet, because I can't really tell.