Photo Credit: IKO

I reach the bottom of the stairs and turn right. Nothing is familiar.

Where is the little pond with the statue and waterfall? What about the cafe that was there just this morning? What has happened to all the landmarks that I so carefully memorized on my way up?

‘Where are you going?’ Jason asks patiently, as if we haven’t played this scene out a thousand times before.

‘Oh…I’m just checking out what’s over here’ I reply over my shoulder.

I hear a low, mumbling ‘Mmmmm, hmmmm’ from his direction as he waits for me to retrace my steps and join him.

‘Ready now?’

‘Yep’. Oh, there’s the pond…and the waterfall…and the cafe. I had just turned the wrong way…again.

I am awful at navigation. Beyond awful if truth be told.

I can almost always be sure that if I get to the bottom of a set of stairs, or come out of an elevator, or off an escalator, or am faced with an east/west/north/south exit ramp that I should go with my gut…and then promptly turn around and head in the exact opposite direction.

My mis-sense of direction is that strong. It’s like my internal compass has a permanent magnet near it; constantly steering me wrong and, even when right, it can’t be relied upon.

I try, I really try.

We recently moved to Calgary and I had heard that navigation is easy as the city is laid out in a grid with north, east, west, and south quadrants. Avenues run east/west and streets run north/south. Center street is, well, the center of the streets and the river marks the north/south determination. Easy, right?

I am a menace on the roads.

First off I must have the map oriented in the direction that I am driving. Of course that assumes that I know the direction I am driving. (I bought a globe compass for my dashboard to help with that piece. See…I am smart.)

Then I have to know which 54th and 7th I am heading to. Is it Ave first, and then Street? Or Street and then Ave? Is it in the NW, NE, SW or SE quadrant? Because, believe you me, there is a 54th and 7th in every freaking one of them!!

If I want to head west, and I’m traveling north, does the road I’m on have traffic lights allowing me to turn directly into the direction I wish to travel? Or does it only have ‘right-side’ exits meaning I must actually head in the opposite direction in order to travel in the correct direction? Do I really want to head west or have I gotten it confused again? At this point I am trying to picture the map in my head…heading north, the destination is to the left on the map…yep, that’s west.

All this is going through my head at the same time as I contemplate which lane to be in, whether the lady ahead of me wants to get into my lane, what’s my speed, do I have enough gas, what did Paul really mean today when he said that the report needed ‘tweaking’, and what are we having for dinner again?

Don’t worry. I have a system. A series of little maps in my head that get me from Point A to Point B every time. I memorize how to get from here to there and back again. Lots of here’s to there’s. Just don’t ask me to make a detour. And, if there is a new Point B I write it out in large handwriting and tape it to my dashboard. Seriously.

So how on earth did we get our sorry asses around the world you ask?

Simple answer; Jason. The man is a navigational wizard.

Not only could he get us from country to country and city to city using official maps with regular map-type markings, but he could get us around any city, or country-side, or neighborhood using just the slightest hint of map scribbled on a piece of paper or directions given to him by some random-man-standing-on-the-corner who doesn’t even speak English!

I was constantly astounded as we rounded a corner and, low-and-behold, there was our hostel and I once again (although briefly) knew where I was again.

I trusted him implicitly, and relied on him heavily.

I can only think of one time that I was left to navigate on my own. He was sick in Cusco, Peru and needed me to go to the pharmacy to get some medication. We looked at the map together and plotted a route. I took the map with me. And promptly got lost. It must have taken me more than an hour to return from, what should have been, a 10 minute jaunt to the corner. He didn’t even so much as ask me if I had lost my way. He simply thanked me for the pills and waited for my inevitable confession of wandering around not knowing where I was until, miraculously, something looked familiar. He never left my side after that.

I spent a year wandering the world, seeing fabulous sights, creating unforgettable memories and having the time of my life. What is the greatest lesson I learned in all of this?

Never piss off the one person in the whole world who can get you back home!!