Some Wayfinding and Survival Strategies for Finding Your Way to a Destination

1. If you have planned a trip, but have moved to a new, unexpected location, check your map to see how your course and plans have been altered, and strategize about how you must now adjust/alter your plans and strategies, update your bearings so that you can successfully find your way to your planned destination. I.e., if you walk past a place you had anticipated walking to, you will then have to adjust your plans, look on a map to find your new bearings. I.e. we walked down past Division. We should have taken a minute to check a map to see how far we were from North. Obviously from the map we would have seen that we were now very, very far from North and should have adjusted our plans accordingly.

2. Discuss with your trip mates that plans have been altered and confer about what the appropriate next strategy is. Do not foolheartedly decide you know exactly where you are going when your plans/location have been altered, without conferring with your trip mates. They may have insight and knowledge you do not. Do NOT under any circumstances fake like you know where you are going or how to get there, with some vague idea such as “we just need to find a large street I am familiar with” when you are in an unfamiliar part of a town, large city, unknown countryside, etc. There are many, many streets and neighborhoods and locations you will not be familiar with and such is a terrible heuristic unless you intentionally want to wander for miles. But your trip mates must consent to such wandering. You must warn them if you are using such a heuristic; they may have better ideas.

3. If you find yourself in a new, unexpected location from a known location, consider backtracking to a known location, especially known safe locations with clear, known connections to where you want to go. I.e. if you were in a location with links to a subway station or highway you know will get you to your destination, consider backtracking to the known location; even if backtracking a little, it may save you a great amount of time and wandering to backtrack. I.e. two wrongs don’t make a right. Unfocused, disorganized, uncalm, unthinking fussing with tangled, knotted yarn may make the yarn only more knotted and tangled. Work slowly, logically, calmly to untangle the yarn. Likewise, if you start wandering from a new position you are unfamiliar with, you may get more and more lost; if you can backtrack to a location with known links to your destination, that may be well worth it. Especially if you see a bus going back to the known location, take it. Do not just plow ahead into unknown, uncharted territory. Never, ever say, “let’s just look for a large street that I know” in an unfamiliar part of town in a large city where you may be in an area with no large streets that you know. It may be simply Hubris and ignorance that make you think you will soon come upon a large street that you know. Do not waste the time and endanger the safety of your trip mates. Clearly communicate exactly what you do and do not know about your current location and means and prospects and strategies for making your way to your desired location.

4. In urban centers in the United States, faced with the choice of walking back to busy city streets with subways stations and bus routes, you probably when trying to find your way to a destination never want to walk along unknown paths along-side freeways, where no one walks, especially when they lead to strange paths under railroads, underpasses, among abandoned side streets and nooks where there are only industrial structures and facilities, abandoned cars, away from civilization. No one ever is in those areas except for drug dealers, gangs, and homeless people. Beware of strange paths alongside freeways where you do not see other people.

5. If you are on an unfocused trip to a destination and have found yourself taken on a strange path alongside some urban freeway, i.e. a no-mans-land, immediately note that you have probably been using terrible way-finding strategies and are officially lost and may be about to be mugged or taken advantage of. If someone has led you down such an abandoned/deserted/industrial/out-of-the-way path you should officially relieve them of any notion that they know where they are going. They are have probably officially taken you on a dangerous trip down a dangerous route, they officially don’t know where they are or where they are going; they don’t know what they are doing or talking about. Beware such people and their faulty logic. They may get you lost and killed. They may be suffering delusions or may be temporarily sick in the head. Find your way back to a safe known location, city center, etc. Ask safe, friendly-looking people for directions. Get on a bus to a known safe location with trains, subways, cabs, safe people. Don’t wander into some abandoned industrial city area where there are bound to be stray dangerous dogs etc.

6. If your guide starts saying things like, “If we just head down this street we will get to xyz” where xyz is where you want to get to, and is miles away, you are officially screwed. Yes, if you are in New York and you head West you will eventually reach the Pacific Ocean. Consider the fact that you should never have listened to such a person in the first place, that their logic may be systematically faulty, and wonder why you ever thought they might know where they are going. Consider that in any trip to a destination you may need to be prepared to find you way to the destination or back to where you started alone, without any guide or companion you started out with. Like the Boy Scouts say, always be prepared. Finding a destination, whether physically or mentally, will always take shrewed and strategic planning and attention. Don’t blindly trust guides who may turn out to be charismatic, who may act like they know what they are doing, but are just the blind leading the blind. Your job is to not be blind.
For wilderness survival there are books such as : Man vs. Wild
Wikipedia: Wayfinding


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