I’m a planner. No, I’m not a spiral-bound calendar that you’ve been reading for the past two years who also happens to run. I’m a human, but I like to plan. I like organization. I like when I have a rough draft, even if my thesis is to fly by the seat of my pants. My grandmother once recommended having a plan, and being willing to adjust the plan at a moment’s notice, and her advice is seen in my tendency to zip between spontaneity and adhering to a schedule, flickering on one end of the spectrum and then the other with the greatest of ease.
Now when it comes to running, the same idea applies. I plan, but I go where the wind takes me. This is especially true when I’m in a new city, state, country, or heck, even trekking through familiar territory but on a new route. Running outdoors appeals to me because it allows me to traverse terrain by foot and see places I might not have noted were I in a car. It also means potentially getting “hella” lost.
Running through new turf is an art form, especially since I rarely tote a map around in my sports bra to reference. So how to navigate becomes quite an issue. If you’re planning on taking to the streets in a locale, let me offer a few pieces of advice on getting out and back to your hostel without (much) time spent being bewilderedly confused:
Yes, You Should Bring a Few Things
Getting a bit turned around while jogging is an adventure. Getting completely lost with no idea how to find the shower you’re dreaming of is terrifying. When in a new place, load up an ID card that has a sticky-note with your in-town address attached to it, your credit card, and about five “dollars” in whatever currency you’re near. If you’re totally beyond finding your way home, the money will come in handy for a cab. And if you need an embassy, it always helps for them to know who you are. Seriously though, in the event of an emergency, being able to identify yourself to others is vital.
Use your eyes effectively before you ever run. Look around your new area, take in everything you can as you get to your hotel or flat or friend’s apartment. If you’re using a GPS to navigate to your destination, pay attention to the names of streets and turns you took to get to your faux abode. Remember what underground station your flat was closest to. Scan a map to be familiar with the lay of the land before you go. The more input you give your mind to chew on and be able to recall when you’re out, the more likely you are to actually not get yourself lost. And golly, know the name of your neighborhood, especially in a big city!
Landing on Landmarks
As you’re running, keep those peepers wide open. Look for parks, statues, libraries, government buildings, or artwork that are you’ll be able to look for on your way back so you can gauge how far you are from “home.” I’m a huge fan of peculiar landmarks: graffiti on the sides of buildings, houseboats on the canal, a strange looking mailbox, an abandoned children’s hospital. Larger landmarks will help you in the event that you’re lost and trying to ask for directions, but smaller ones that you can map in your head keep are excellent for personal navigation. Some of my faves from a recent trip that helped me learn running routes through twisty streets and gave me the visual relief of familiarity were interspersed in this post to help you the reader get back in case your scroll bar or back-button aren’t accessible. The street art was not Banksy, but hey — worked just well!