The Art of Asking For Directions

Even with the most meticulous planning and the best maps and apps, it’s easy to get lost when travelling. Sometimes it’s just a matter of reading the signs more carefully, sometimes the location has changed, and sometimes the maps are just wrong. You’d think that this would be a simple problem to fix, but it’s surprising how many locals can not give you directions to even the most touristy destinations. Ironically I’m the one in my relationship that doesn’t like asking for directions and Jay jumps at every opportunity. However, asking for directions doesn’t always help either!

Beer Pong

Our first amusing directional mishap was in Orlando while trying to find an outlet mall (I needed a new bathing suit). We had the address, but for the life of us couldn’t find it. After driving around for a while we stopped and Jay hopped out of the car to ask a shop owner for directions. When he returned he said we needed to keep going straight and them turn right on “biland.” Or was it “buy-land?” This would be a little too literal for my tastes, but you never know. After driving around for a while longer we were about to give up when I saw a sign for “vineland.” I asked Jay if that could be it. That’s when it dawns on Jay that the man had a very thick accent… communication fail.

But, it’s not always our fault- sometimes technology fails us. On a trip through Northeastern USA we spent about 30 minutes one night trying to find our hotel. I had my phone out and was using Google maps, but the lovely Google women didn’t appear to be directing us to the right location. She kept saying “in x metres take the exit on the right.” And that is all she ever said. SO, as you can imagine, we ended up going in giant circles. We finally found our hotel, whose entrance was just after a ramp, making it almost impossible to see (or get into safely).

When we first moved to Cancun we had many opportunities to ask for directions. Not only did we need to find things that weren’t on most tourist’s radar (or maps), maps and online information are harder to come by in Mexico. After a few failed attempts and countless extra miles traveled we learned something important about Mexican culture- they are too polite. People here hate saying no in any form and so when you ask for directions they will often give you them even if they have no clue where you want to go.  While I appreciate their desire to help, I would appreciate it a bit more if they just said “I don’t know.” We now have a 3 rule policy here: ask three people for directions and if they all more of less coincide, we follow them.

By far the best “luck” we’ve had with directions has been on Canada’s East Coast. When we entered New Brunswick we were on our way to a landmark when the farm like atmosphere and windy roads got the better of us. We ended up on a dirt road in front of a picturesque house, which stereotypically was unlocked even though no one was home. Just as we thought we would be driving around aimlessly for hours we spotted a car coming towards us! Jay jumped out and tried to wave him down. He zoomed past at breakneck speed and Jay got back in the car mumbling something about how the Maritimers were supposed to be so nice. Just at that moment I looked in the rear view mirror and to my surprise the car was backing up! We explained where we were trying to go and the man began to give us directions. And then he said, “you know what, just follow me” and proceed to escort us to the landmark (which I must point out was in the opposite direction to where he was going)! While we were in the Maritimes this happened to us not once, but twice! Gotta love East Coast Canadians! Finally a huge directional WIN!