Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Help Me! I'm Lost and I Don't Know Where I Am!

Have you ever gotten lost? I'm sure the women in the audience are saying, "Of course not, I make sure to use the GPS directions on my phone even when I'm only going around the corner". And, I'm sure the men in the audience are saying, "Of course not, I have an excellent sense of direction, those hunter instincts" even as they driving through a desert like the lost couple in Cars.

(By the way, is it correct to call it an audience in this media form? I guess your living room, smart phone, or office while hoping the boss doesn't come by can be part of an audience. But, that also assumes there are several people engaged in rapt attention...that one is iffy.)

Getting lost in a foreign country is both likely and unpleasant. My phone doesn't work over seas so I need to rely on, God help me, a map! And really, who wants to spend $14.95 on a decent map of every city you'll visit? That adds up quickly; you could buy a lot of food or booze with it instead. The alternative is you use the free maps handed out by hotels. These range from incredibly helpful to this:

Notice how the hotel and tourist sites are incredibly huge. This ensures that you have no idea where they actually are. It's better to make sure the images cover several blocks so you can get really close and then get lost wandering around piazzas and back alleys full of feral cats. And, if you happen to get distracted by something pretty, like beautiful Renaissance architecture or a hot guy on a vespa, the lack of street names makes sure you can never find yourself again.

What to do in this situation to avoid this scenario?

No one wants to end up praying near the front of a church for a holy intervention. Rome at least has cathedrals on almost every corner so you could do this as a last result. You could even do so inside if you'd like. If you're in Rome, I hope you're Catholic, I'm not sure you'll find another type of church.

So, the alternative. You could ask someone for directions!!!! A radical idea I know. I've said before that all Europeans speak English. While this is generally true, it may be hard to find someone who is fluent enough to tell you more than where's the bathroom. I got pretty good at this after having trouble finding the bus stop in Poland, Germany, and Hungary. To help out, here are: 

The Travelin-gineer's Helpful Hints for Finding Help.

1. If you see a service industry nearby (such as a hotel or restaurant) try there first.
2. If you don't see a service industry, look for someone who appears to be under the age of 35.
     2a. By under 35, I don't mean a child. Don't come off as a creeper.
3. Find someone who is alone. I found some young people are embarrassed to speak English in front of their friends if they aren't completely fluent. You are also less likely to be interrupting.
4. Approach someone with a smile in a well-lit, open area. Let's not celebrate a vacation by getting maced.
5. If this person looks at you puzzled, repeat with another individual.

There you go. I hope this helps if you are ever lost in foreign country. If you still can't find someone who speaks English, sorry. Maybe you should think about hailing a cab. 

Until next time, God bless America.


  1. I have absolutely no sense of direction so I spend a good portion of my time lost. I once got lost going from my place to my parents, a journey I've done every week for the past ten years. And they only live fifteen minutes away from me!

    1. That's definitely a new one. I've at least never had that happen because then I'm not sure what the best course of action is. You can't call and ask for directions because you'd never hear the end of it. And, if your phone isn't working, or isn't smart enough, you're stuck. Maybe the best option is, go back home and try again tomorrow.

  2. I went to a meeting last week for my job and had to use my gps. You know that darn thing made up a road?!? It was all "turn left on to blahblahblah street"... And there was NO STREET THERE!!! Way to go, Google maps.



    1. I sympathize. The GPS can be an evil thing. My biggest problem was that it always loses you in tunnels and you turn is coming up immediately after. Every time it says recalculating I am tempted to hurl it out of the window.