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jfos's avatar

Do you have a good sense of direction?

Asked by jfos (7362points) March 26th, 2010

I feel that it is a sense that some possess and others don’t. I don’t mean to say that it is impossible to learn to have a good sense of direction, but for some people it just comes easy.

What I want to know is a time that exemplifies your above average sense of direction. Did you ever get lost yet manage to find your way? Do you use certain visual clues to help you find your bearings? Do tell.

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38 Answers

noyesa's avatar

I often freak people out with my sense of direction. I’ve visited people in places I’ve never been to before and figured my way around so quickly that I taught people who lived there something new. I have an extremely visual memory and I’m obsessively observant of little details. I remember the names of stores, streets, addresses, zip codes, etc with near perfect recall.

I live in a sprawling metropolitan area which has streets that run on straight for tens of miles, in a checkerboard pattern, so I can use the rules of the streetscape to navigate almsot anywhere around here, even thought I may have never been there before. I rarely get lost, and I don’t mean that I rarely don’t know where I’m going, I just find my way so quickly and easily that it hardly counts as lost and is more just like a really good guess.

Vunessuh's avatar

No, my GPS is my best friend.

jfos's avatar

@noyesa So how do you figure your way around? Using a map? Or just by going around?

JLeslie's avatar

I think my sense of direction is average, but I am very good at reading a map. My husband calls me his GPS.

noyesa's avatar

@jfos Where I live it’s really easy to use common sense, since we have the “mile road” system (I live in suburban Detroit). Throughout the entire metropolitan area our major roads, EW and NS are separated by one mile, blocking in what are called Sections.

The entire state of Michigan is surveyed using what is called the Township and Range System or the Public Land Survey, and many parts west of here are as well. Michigan is the center of location for the entire Northwesten Territory. For example, Baseline Rd (the infamous 8 Mile) is also the same line as the border between Illinois and Wisconsin, and our Principle Meridian runs down through Kentuckey if I remember correctly. Each section from here is laid out in one mile patterns, each of which is a road. The system is universal.

It’s all very orderly and very logical, and once you know the street names it becomes trivial to navigate the entire 1000+ sq mile metropolitan area. I do it all the time, and I don’t need to look up directions for places I’ve never been to.

When it comes to new places, I’m just very observant. I will usually look at a map before hand, but once I get the “culture” of the street layout I can navigate using just common sense. I have a keen memory for remembering where certain stores and landmarks are and a perpetually keep track of myself (mentally) using landmarks. The fact that downtown Detroit can be seen from miles has actually helped me navigate before by juding my angle to it.

gemiwing's avatar

I thank my youth spent in the woods with my ability to keep a sense of direction. If I’ve been somewhere once, I’ll find it again fairly easily. If I’m in a new place I remember directional cues, buildings, intersections quickly.

Funny thing is that there is this one part of town I simply can’t figure out. The streets don’t have any order to them. 34th is bisected in two places by 32nd; streets dogleg at will and often. It drives me nuts. I think they store kryptonite there so perhaps that’s it.

ETA- Once I was visiting a friend in Nashville. The last time I had been there was about ten years prior and it was on a school field trip so we were in a bus. I took them around downtown to the exact spot I had been years before. It was easy.

Snarp's avatar

I have no sense of direction whatsoever. If I have some way to find North, like a compass, the sun, moss, a good standard landmark, then I can find my way quite well, particularly with a map. I have all the learned skills necessary to get around. But if I drive around for a while on an overcast day in an area I don’t know very well, I will have no idea where I am or how to get back. A few turns, even one cloverleaf offramp, and I’ve got no idea which direction is which.

Seek's avatar

I’m dyscalculic, which means I have a tendency to transpose “right”, “left”, “east”, “west” and the like.

The first time I go anywhere, I leave an hour early just to give myself time to get lost.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have a great sense of direction. Without thinking about it I use cues from the position of the sun.
Interestingly, when I was in South Africa I consistently went the wrong way since the sun was in the “wrong” part of the sky.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Just in life, not on the street or anything – that part of my brain is underdeveloped.

Coloma's avatar

My sense of direction is rather poor..maybe a right brained propensity. lol

I manage, but get lost a lot!

I am pretty good with my east/wast polarities but often, that gets really scrambled especially in big cities lost in the maze of traffic.

I was really messed up in Asia last month..fortunetly I was not driving…holy F—k! hahaha

I could only tell direction from the rooftop of my apartment building at sunrise & sunset! lolol

But..I manage…the slightly ADHD pigtailed blonde behind the wheel..but hey I travel in grace. lol

Just_Justine's avatar

Yes I do actually. I hate being lost, but I always find my way out!

Even in strange countries I visit.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I have an excellent sense of direction, unless I’ve been drinking. I use the sun, terrain, follow water etc. I used to go out in the woods, spin around three or four times and just start in the direction I thought was right and come out very close to my target. Back to the drinking: I went to college in a city with two universities. They set on opposite hills with the city in the valley below. We were in a bar in the city and I decided to head home alone. I started walking uphill and I got to the college but none of the buildings looked familiar. I turned around and across the valley there was my college about 4 miles away. I grabbed the first cab I came across.

erichw1504's avatar

Yes, I think I have a great sense of direction. As a bonus, 99.9% of the time I will know where North is no matter where I am or how I got there.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

LOL! that’s all I can say

LuckyGuy's avatar

@erichw1504 I too always know where North is. But down in South Africa or Australia I am tricked every time.
Have you ever been below the equator? It is really interesting to see the effect.

JLeslie's avatar

@noyesa I think it is a L’ Enfant design, same as Washington DC. around Detroit. At least it is so similar that is what I assume.

I find that cities that are flat, the topography I mean, can easily have more logical patterns. If there are many, hills, dales, bodies of water, or mountains, it is almost impossible to do a simple grid, or even a grid that have a few diagonals in it. So people who have always lived in logically patterned cities sometimes are stunned that others can’t get around easily, but people who typically are not in logically laid out road systems; it seems it takes them a while to realize when a city is easy to figure out.

@all My husband has an excellent sense of direction, but rarely looks at a map when in a new area. We had been living in Raleigh, NC for several months, and I realized from a question he asked me that he thought the inner loop and outer loop of the beltline/beltway was two different roads. LOL. I had to get out the map and explain to him that the side of the highway traveling clockwise was the inner loop, and the one counter clockwise was the outer, that it is describing the side of the road, the direction of the righthand side.

I lived there 2 years, and came across two other people who didn’t know it was the same road, and they had lived there for years. How does that happen?

wilma's avatar

If I can see the Sun, then I’m good.

free_fallin's avatar

Very much so. There is no such thing as lost for me as I always end up knowing exactly where to turn when I’ve made a wrong turn. I love maps.

MekmanSupreme's avatar

I’ve given up. I think the better part of my directional sensing abilities falls flat. Especially if I try to “make them go.” I also rely upon GPS.

noyesa's avatar

@JLeslie Well, most of the people in Detroit don’t know what I just said. :-P

Detroit city proper was burned down in 1806 and Judge Augustus Woodward “redesigned” the street scape of the city into one that used major radial streets just like Washington, DC, extending from downtown, those being Jefferson, Gratiot, Woodward, Grand River, Michigan Ave and Fort. These roads go well into the suburbs and carve up the perfect grid pattern found outside the city limits.

However, Detroit proper also (mostly) complies with the grid system, and the entire suburban area is almost a perfect Mile Road grid system, only broken up in the lakes area in Oakland County.

Detroit is a very old city and has annexed land into its boundaries during periods of extreme growth between 1900 and 1950 (some of the quickest urban expansion ever seen). The city limits, other than the northern border at the county line (8 Mile) are completely nonsensical and supercedes the authority of the township. However, all of the township (and often incorporated city land) surrounding the city, the land that makes up most of the suburbs, is still a completely intact Township and Range system, all of which was carved up in the mid-1800s. Many suburban cities and townships are perfect 36 sq mi townships or former townships (Livonia, Warren, Canton, etc) which are the defining feature of a Township and Range system.

What you’re talking about is common out east where the geography is diverse and many places have been around since before the Northwest Ordinance created PLS. It’s called the Metes and Bounds system, where boundaries are established either arbitrarily or using a scavenger hunt style description using landmarks (30 PACES LEFT FROM ROCK ON TOP OF HILL, that sort of thing).

Detroit has sort of settled and the area that it consumes has been flush with the city for decades, so it’s difficult to see how the city ate up the county land. However, if you look at the boundaries of Ann Arbor, you’ll see that it is creeping into Washtenaw County townships which have an intact township grid, particularly the southeast side of the city (merging in with Pittsfield Township).

xRIPxTHEREVx's avatar

people don’t believe that I have an acute sense of direction. My friends and i got lost a couple weeks ago in a city we had never visited before and i was in the passanger seat of the car shouting out directions to get us where we needed to go. My friends got frustrated and called someone we knew who lived in the area and asked for directions intead of listening to me. Turns out, if they had followed my direcion, we would have found out way to the mall alot quicker.

JLeslie's avatar

@noyesa LOL. Well, it doesn’t surprise me too much, since when I used to ask people where they live (I went to school in MI) they would hold up one hand and point where with their other hand. Haha. Go Green!

noyesa's avatar

@JLeslie You’re talking to a UM student. Go blue.

JLeslie's avatar

@noyesa I’ll still talk to you, even though you went to the wrong school. JK :)

DominicX's avatar

I do believe so, yes. So good that I was able to correct people giving directions who lived in San Diego and I hadn’t been there in several years. Of course, this doesn’t mean that maps don’t aid me, but I always know exactly where I am. That time we got lost in L.A, I knew we were heading in the right direction, I just didn’t know how exactly to get on the freeway. I needed a map to give me the specifics.

But like, my boyfriend does not have that great of a sense of direction, so when he’s driving, I pretty much just tell him everything to do and I do that with most of my friends when they drive. They trust me and it rarely fails. :)

marinelife's avatar

My innate sense of where I am is pretty good. My husband has a poor sense of direction. This results in our being lost fairly frequently. I can usually get us on the right path. Once I can get him to listen that is.

mammal's avatar

very erratic, depends on my concentration level, sometimes uncannily good, sometimes very very poor.

wilma's avatar

@noyesa I didn’t know what our mile road grid design was called, thanks!
It is very easy to get around and also to know how far you have gone, just count the corners.
Like you I live where the land is flat (the Saginaw valley) and you can usually “see” where you need to go, even if it is miles away.
go green

MacBean's avatar

I have an uncanny sense of direction. Back in my late high school/early college days when my friends and I had jobs and very few expenses and gas was cheap(er), we used to like to fill up someone’s gas tank and spend the day trying to get lost. It never worked when I was there. I’ve never been lost. Or perhaps I have, but not long enough for me to notice. I don’t always get where I’m going by the fastest route, but I do always get there. A lot of people have asked me what the “trick” is and if I can teach them. Sadly, I can’t offer any tips. I can just feel which way I’m supposed to go. It even works in places I’ve never been before. I wish I knew how/why it works. It can’t just be magic…

Berserker's avatar

I’m going to brag here. My sense of direction is incredibly top notch, and often useful. There are some few theories I have for this.
I’m a huge fan of role playing games, that is, video game version, and the ones I’ve always loved the most are those older kinds with no wussy onscreen maps to tell you where you’re going. You either memorize it or trace it out on graph paper. I’ve played countless games like these, and have traversed countless dungeons, where survival depends on my memory, because I’m way too lazy to draw maps.

I know it sounds retarded, and that most people think video games are the spawn of Satan and that they couldn’t possibly do anything good for anyone, but after ten years plus of dungeon crawling I’ve acquired a veritable compass in my head. It also helps that I’ve always lived in big cities, and got to know places like Winnipeg beyond just knowing where the major streets are.

I’m not much of a survivor and couldn’t hit a barn with a magnum, but drop me in a strange random city or in the middle of the woods, and I will find my way back to point A.
It’s never failed me before, even without knowing street names and all.

I also barely ever look at the maps while playing Silent Hill games. Most don’t believe me, but it totally says so in my stats how many times I looked at the map when I finish the games haha.

JLeslie's avatar

@wilma I’ll be watching tonight! Sparty on!

Jack79's avatar

Mine is excellent, it’s probably my greatest talent. I can find my way anywhere in the world without a map (or just by glancing at a map once and then just guessing). Not a very useful talent in the age of googlemaps and car navigators, but still something I like :)

janbb's avatar

I’m very good at making mental maps of where I’ve been and being able to retrace my steps or orientate myself to a new place.

thriftymaid's avatar

I do; I always turn right.

faye's avatar

I’m with @Snarp. Only if someone tells me north can I navigate. My city has made districts all in circles and dead ends with a map at the entrance. If I get in there without finding the map, I am so lost-just drive and drive until I get out.

JeffVader's avatar

An excellent sense of direction…. the only place I cant navigate is Milton Keynes, but I believe the devil made that town!

janbb's avatar

Well, it is a “new town” so possibly true…...

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