Man sitting with dog on dock

Home, Sweet…Where Am I?


Home, Sweet…Where Am I?

For years I fought the fact that I lack any directional sense whatsoever. I began to accept my ONE little flaw (ahem…yeah right) a few years ago when I realized that it makes me really nervous to drive when other people are in the car with me. When I am alone in the car, I can make as many U-turns as I need or go around the block twenty times if necessary. But I get a little flustered when others are in the car judging me as I swing a three-point turn or fly by my exit on the freeway.

What makes a person’s sense of direction go from bad to worse? You got it: moving every three years! I lived in my hometown for twenty-two years and I was finally an expert at navigating the city; in my defense, I was only a licensed driver for seven of those twenty-two years. Then, as fate would have it, I married into the military and all of that time spent memorizing street names, addresses, and shortcuts went down the drain. I was plopped into a new city, in a new state, and I was confused.

Just how confused was I? Six months after moving to our first duty station, I was still occasionally missing the turn into our neighborhood. Six months, folks! And that was just out in the civilian world; driving on base was a separate beast. Still new to the military community, I was petrified that I was going to accidentally turn down some top secret road and be swarmed by a mob of MPs! And with all of the extra rules of the road on the base, like no cell phones, a speed limit of “crawl,” and strict enforcement of traffic signs, I felt like it was just a matter of time before I was caught doing something wrong and thrown into military traffic jail! Don’t worry, to my knowledge, such a place doesn’t actually exist.

So there I was in a new place—OK, OK, six months isn’t new anymore—and my own personal GPS, my husband, deployed.

Uh-oh.

I got lost (accidentally, anyway) for the last time the day he deployed. I had no choice but to learn the ins and outs of our installation and the surrounding community on my own. I had to swallow some pride, get to know some neighbors, and fill up the gas tank, but I finally figured it out.

  • Get lost. It’s hard to get to know a place if you’re always a passenger or following someone else’s directions. If you ask me, the best way to figure a place out is to drive around with no destination in mind. Just watch out for road signs and top secret roads; you wouldn’t want to end up in military traffic jail!
  • Plan ahead. Getting lost is a great tactic when you’re not in a hurry, but for those times when you need to get somewhere on time, look up directions ahead of time so you have an idea of where you’re going. If you have a GPS, use it! Give yourself plenty of travel time, you know, for all of those U-turns.
  • Be real. Moving is a pain, end of story. All you want to do is get settled into your new house and new town, but it’s difficult to venture out when you’re sweaty, smell like your favorite household cleaner, and nursing cuts from all that packing paper. When you meet people in your new town and they ask how the unpacking is going, be honest. Tell them you’re exhausted, sick of take-out, and can’t remember the last time you showered! People, especially in the military community can relate. Maybe they’ll have pity on you and lend a hand or, at the very least, an ear. And I have no doubt that you’ll have plenty of PCS stories to swap!
  • Be nice. When you’re making all of those new friends, remember to be nice despite your exhaustion and paper cuts. Your new friends can let you in on all of the best kept secrets at your new installation and point you in the right direction for shopping, dining, and installation activities or offices.
  • Ask questions. Especially when you’re trying to find your way around your installation, don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Offices and organizations are sometimes tucked away in unlikely places with little to no advertisement of their location. Either call ahead to the office you’re looking for, like TRICARE, medical records, gyms, and everything in between, or ask your service member or one of those new friends of yours!

It didn’t happen overnight, but I finally learned my way around…just in time to PCS! Here we go again!

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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2 Comments

  • Carl Clark says:

    Hi Kristi
    It’s not uncommon for folks these days to become directionally challenged. For the first million or so years man moved about as fast as he/she could walk and the brain had ample enough time to take in all the reference points to get where he was going. Not only are humans now required to navigate in a faster moving world, using missles on wheels (cars), they have to take in a lot more data. While doing this they have to tune the radio, fumble with their mobile phones, correct the kids yelling in the backseat and remember what to pickup at the store. A hunter gatherer woman a million years ago had every bush, trail, location of edible berry and water hole mapped out in her mind. Cave man hunters traveled far and wide and depended less on mental maps and more on a sense of direction. That’s why women store tons of data in their heads and are good at it, and men are usually focused and in the moment. Women whose mental capacities were limited and could not retain vast amounts of survival information fell to Darwins theory, men whose internal compasses could not bring them and their catch home did not contribute to the gene pool. Now enter age. Your young mind once down-loaded the mental made with the speed of a new computer, as you get older and burdened with older more useless maps and information. Your advice was spot-on! The only thing it lacked was the suggestion to folks to “slow down”. Men and women these days are moving too fast and it effects out ability to soak our surroundings and react as we are zipping about on our daily routines. Good Luck!

  • You had me laughing! I remember arriving at one base house at one duty station during the night and the next morning when i left to zip to the comisarry real quick to get milk, eggs, bread, etc…..i could NOT find my way out of our base neighborhood to the big hill that would take me to the main road that i knew took me to everything…..long story cut super short i was escorted home by an MP driving MY car while i sat in the passenger seat with my 16 month old in the backseat in her car seat with a parade of MP’s following us escorting me home…i was making a great first impression on the neighbors and of course my husband pulls up behind the MP’s wondering what i had done in the few hours he had been at work!!! All because i have no sense of direction!!! I feel your pain!!! 😉