You’re never lost with a map in your pocket is one of the things that I say to the people who ask me about my wandering. Well, just to stipulate, you’re never lost with a map in your pocket and the ability to use it. Whether it is a digital map or a paper one. And in honour of National Map Reading Week, I though I would share my take on maps.
As you probably know, I love following my nose and heading where my curiosity takes me. A good example of this is while I was in Poland recently. Jit was at a conference and when he is I head out to pound the streets and explore. Using my map I found my way to a park and that is when my curiosity got set loose. Spotting some people on the top of a cliff, I had to get up there.
Scrambling my way up
Being the curious kind, I wandered the area, following paths and desire lines to find a way up. Not having the kinds of maps we have back in Great Britain (mainly the amazingly accurate OS Maps) I was having to follow what I could find. Discovering a steep craggy, almost vertical way, I scrambled to the top and eventually found a path. Not only did I find the path, I also found the lake that was on my map as well. All in the space of a few minutes.
The discovery of the path was excellent as it gave me a better idea where I was even though it wasn’t displayed on my map. A large green space was all that I had. Luckily from this point, I was able to follow my way around and find the nice shallow hill with paved path that would have been the easier option to get to the peak. It was at this point that I started to check the surrounding area on my map.
One of the things that I really do appreciate with digital maps in the tracking feature. When I am out alone in an unknown places, I pop it on so that if I do venture too far off track, I am able to find my way back. It also means that I can sometimes find routes that other people have prepared and follow those. It seems Krakow is not that well mapped by people exploring either.
Even on quite basic maps, you can use the symbols to find places, such as viewing points or places for photography, toilets and cafes. Which is very useful. I find that my routes tend to take a detour when I spot a viewing point and I just have to check it out. Without a map though, I would be more than likely to end up miles from where I need to me. Sometimes my curiosity really does get the best of me.
Making the most of exploring
In an unknown place, such as Krakow, you could spend hours trying to find anything if you did it without a map. The city centre is fine, but we did pull out our map to navigate to our hotel – especially when one of the routes proved to be on an unlit road with no pavements. Having and being able to read maps can be the difference between you being safe and unsafe. Our map enabled us to find a safer route where we could walk in the dark.
It is not just about safety (although it is a biggie, of course), using a map means that you can explore further afield and get to more places because you actually know which way you are going. From the cliff I spotted a mound in the distance that grabbed my attention. From my map, I could work out where and what it was and how to get there.
The red circle in the picture is of the cliff that I scrambled up to get the view. Can you imagine how long it would have taken me to find the mound if I were unable to read a map and get my bearings? I could also work out that it was going to be approximately 50 minutes of walking and up hill too. So I could make the decision about whether to go for it or not. (I am glad I did, by the way!)
Even though you can find yourself in some unusual places when you follow your nose and wandering feet, if you have a map and are able to use it, you will know where you are. I first learned to read maps when I was in Guides. It has been such a useful skill both in the countryside and city, both at home and abroad. I’m not a huge planner or a nervous explorer, but I do like to know that I can find my way home should I wander too far from the path. And that is why I love to carry both my digital and paper maps when I go out exploring. Oh and a plethora of external batteries for my phones too.
If I didn’t have the ability to use maps, I doubt that I would be able to see as much as I do on my travels. On that one day in Krakow, I covered 25 miles. Many of which were me following my map to find places that I spotted in the distance.
So back to the point that “you’re never lost with a map in your pocket”. Although it might not be your typical way of thinking about maps and uses, I do also use them for planning too. Sometimes I do plan, believe it or not!
I think if you want to make the most of your adventures, see more than you could imagine and stay safe while doing it, then learning to read maps and use the digital kind are key. There are loads of resources out there to get you going but if you do have any questions ask away in the comment and I’ll do my best to answer them or find you the right person for the job!
Let me know in the comments about your map reading skills.
Are you a pro or could you use a bit more knowledge to be confident?