21st century technology has ruined 21st century kids. We no longer know how to strike up a conversation during dinner, we don’t know how to make decisions without consulting Google, and we definitely don’t know how to read a map, let alone walk around town without a voice telling us “in 100 metres, turn left at the roundabout.” “Turn left”. “Turn left”. “Recalculating..” *insert preferred curse word here*
Before I get all philosophical about how we should enjoy getting lost in the city, taking in every moment and not constantly rushing to the next destination etc., here are a few tricks I’ve discovered to help me stay safe in a new city whilst being disconnected from the world as I know it.
- First and foremost, remember where you’re spending the night. Jot down the address somewhere (on your arm if necessary) and keep it safe.
- Get a map. I usually download one through Google Maps when I’m in a new place. Despite your lack of connectivity, the blue dot never leaves you nor forsakes you. OR, go really old school and whip out a map (wait for it) made of paper. Hotels and hostels give out maps more than they give out clean towels and bottled water. Familiarise yourself with where things are roughly located on the map and you’re good to go. Otherwise, you could always get a guidebook that usually outlines the main tourist-y areas which can also be pretty useful. I love circling landmarks and making notes on my maps, it makes me feel like a taller (and cuter) version of Dora the Explorer. On every trip, I’m equipped with all three. (There is no shame in being over prepared.)
- Do some research before setting out for the day. Figure out a specific area you would like to visit, for example, north of the river, and find out a little more about the place. Make a note of buses or trains or trams that run from your accommodation to that side of town, or the quickest way to walk back in case you lose track of time and want to get back before your ball gown turns into a rag (you’d be surprised at how often that happens). If you’re a foodie like me, ask Trip Advisor or some real Facebook friends about great places to check out.
- Never Eat Sea Weed. Clockwise, North, East, South, West. Yes, I use a silly rhyme to recall my directions. It’s important to know what’s where as that just helps you find your bearings quicker.
- Learn to ask strangers for directions. Trust your gut about who to approach. I once approached a waiter in a Hard Rock Cafe in Dublin who looked like a pirate who turned out to be a very kind and helpful pirate. Because I am useless when it comes to listening and remembering verbal instructions, I usually approach someone with a map so that they can point out where I am and direct me to where I need to be.
- Ask for wifi everywhere you go. Despite being able to survive without data, wifi is a non-negotiable. Don’t expect me to have lunch without a side dish of Instagram and Facebook. I find that simply saying “Wifi? Password?” and gesturing to my phone, usually does the trick.
And finally, if all goes wrong, whip out your purse and hail a cab. Good luck!
UPDATE: After three weeks of travelling, I found out that there are quite a few places where Offline Google Maps are unavailable. Refer to this page to check out if a map for you destination is available offline. Alternatively, download the Tripadvisor App and then download maps through the app.