Recently, I traveled to London, England with two travel buddies; and while we planned most of our adventures together, there were a few activities we chose to experience solo. As someone who has NEVER traveled solo before, I have to admit I was nervous to venture out on my own.
I get highly anxious when I have to rely upon my own navigational skills, as I’ve just never been able to easily decipher NSEW without using landmarks. For example, I live in Chicago and I can easily identify direction based on the location of Lake Michigan, certain famous buildings, etc. That being said, I still heavily rely upon Google Maps to get me from A to B – which was a cause for concern when I imagined myself trying to navigate a new city.
I was not about to let my fear of getting lost conquer my fear of missing out, so I took some steps to prepare myself BEFORE I left the states.
Here’s how I built up my confidence pre-travel:
3 Tips for Getting Around Without Getting Lost
1) Build upon your strengths & make a plan –
I’m envious of the ladies who can rely upon what seems like a sixth sense for navigation – gurl, you ROCK – but, unfortunately, I am NOT one of those ladies. I am, however, always paying attention to landmarks – #architect – and lock into memory where I am based on what’s around me. Thankfully, technology is amazing and can help a girl get familiar with a new place via Google Maps.
I used and abused Google Maps “Your Places” map making and Street View to plan my trip and get familiar with sites prior to even stepping foot on English ground. As an obsessive planner, I love using “Your Places” to establish an itinerary for any sites or activities I intend to see or do while traveling. As a directionally challenged individual, using a map-based itinerary helps me to organize sites and activities based on location – which means I can plan my days more easily by grouping together sites and activities that are near each other.
2) Sneak a peak –
To take travel planning to the next level, I used my map to establish a path of travel, layer in nearby transit, preview nearby shopping and dining options, and view the surrounding area. In Google Maps Street View, I dropped in the little yellow guy (or gal) and roamed the streets of London! But not too much – just enough to get familiar with transit stops, as entrances are sometimes difficult to find. Maps and Street View definitely came in handy when deciding on where to stay. A few questions I asked (and answered) – Is it near public transportation? Will I have a (relatively) straight path between my hotel and transportation? Where will the nearby transportation take me (aka – how many bus or train lines are available, and/or how often will I need to connect to another line to get where I’m going? For me, knowing the location of public transportation was super critical – as suspected, the entrance/exit to the underground was tucked away. I spent zero time searching for or being worried about accessing public transportation.
Using Street View in Google Maps has been a major game changer for me – I have less anxiety about getting lost, which means I can spend more time enjoying my travel.
3) Connect to WIFI & VERIFI –
Luckily, my airbnb host home was AWESOME and provided WIFI. Before I got started with my day, I’d check my map and verify transit to each location. This was super helpful, as I was able to be aware of any delays or cancellations, and reroute accordingly. Again – the less anxiety I have, the more joy I feel. The more joy I feel, the more likely I am to capture the moment!
Travel tip: If you’re a Sprint customer, International Roaming is included in your contract, which is great for traveling abroad. Sprint also provides customers with the option of adding on a data roaming plan for $5/day or $25/week. I found this extremely useful for spur of the moment decisions – especially when a local recommended good food or hidden gems. (I’m in no way sponsored or connected with Sprint, other than a current customer. Just sharing my experience!)
I’m a Chicago-based Architect-in-training, amateur photographer, adventure seeker, in search of beauty around the world. I find inspiration from exploration – whether by bike, by car, by plane, or by book. You can follow my journey @parmenter_jessica