Maps, Mapping, and Google Maps

I can´t read maps even if my life depended on it. This is a fact that everyone in my family has had to live with, and the men in my life climb walls in frustration because of it. I make no excuses for my inability to decipher squiggles on a piece of paper, and I operate under the motto, I never get lost, just end up on an alternative route.

frog1This un-charming trait comes from my mother, who could not read maps either. As a child I remember the road trips and safaris that turned into mini war zones because my father had entrusted the navigation to Mommy, only to realize that she was reading the map upside down. When you are in the middle of a wild park in Africa surrounded by lions and rhinos, this is not amusing. Neither is getting lost in the country roads of Mexico. So at the tender age of six, Daddy declared me the family navigator and I got to sit up front. Imagine his horror when he found out I was just as bad as my mother! I navigate (if you can call it that) by instinct and landmarks, I hate asking for directions, and once I notice I am heading the wrong way, I will simply turn back and retrace my steps. Doing this in the mountains of Spain can be dangerous, especially when I take three hours more than planned to descend the mountain, but to me it is all part of the adventure, and strengthens my faith because the more lost I am the more fervently I pray.

In India I had a driver to get me lost and un-lost, so I never bothered with directions either. Except on the occasional Sunday when I navigated the family to a lunch we were invited to. After driving up an down the same road for the fourth time I was finally asked what I was looking for, and nobody in the car was amused by my response: “I am looking for the cows that were standing at the corner, that is where we have to turn left.” Note to self: never use live landmarks for geographical orientation.

I cannot navigate.
I naviguess.
(Ich navigiere nicht, sondern navi-rate)

Mind you, I am a really good driver – as long as I know where I am going and don´t have to read a map. I once had to pick up my husband at work in Potsdam. In theory I only needed 20 minutes to drive over from Zehlendorf, 30 minutes tops with traffic. I looked at the map, threw it on the seat beside me and set off. I was extremely confident about my directions. About 90 minutes later I was in the middle of some forsaken village in Brandenburg, nowhere near Potsdam. So the 20 minutes I had announced for pick-up time turned into three hours…

You are probably reading this and say well now we have mobile phones and Google Maps. Ha! Yes, and I have it on my phone, but you think I can follow it properly? Ask my photo and travel buddy, and he will deny any plausibility of my map-reading skills. Figure out whether you have to go North or South on the map and walk accordingly, he tells me. North? South? These are mere decorative suggestions aren´t they? Frogs only care about forwards and backwards, up or down.

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