Land navigation has changed drastically recently with technology doing a lot of the work for us; which route to take, making sure you’re on the correct road, and rerouting you if something comes up (or you miss the exit).
Technology navigates for us these days; most folks have lost the faith in themselves to be able to navigate without their mobile device leading the way.
However, over the past few years while teaching people from all walks of life land navigation, both in rural environments as well as urban environments, I’ve noticed this skill isn’t necessarily lost, just dormant. Once the person begins to flex that “navigational muscle”, their ability to navigate in a basic manner returns quickly.
The Guugu Yimidhirr tribe in Australia are known to only give spatial coordination based off of cardinal directions, meaning they don’t necessarily use “the left side of the table” but instead would say “the east side of table.” This manner in which their language develops causes them to be aware of their cardinal directions at all times, so their “navigational muscle” is constantly flexing. This demonstrates that when we adjust how we view our environment, and maintain a more thorough situational awareness, things like navigation become easier. This also shows that someone who says “I have no sense of direction” can be taught how to gain a better sense of direction.
The first thing asked of the students is to take a step back and look at their entire surroundings, 360 degrees. What landmarks, natural or manmade, are there to help realize cardinal directions? Once they figure out which way is north, and what direction their desired location is, the rest of the navigation “pieces” usually fall into place.
With practice, a new addition to their situational awareness “tool belt” develops. With this new skill, how they view their surroundings changes a bit to assist in navigating: no longer are they completely reliant on their mobile devices.
We as instructors realize that giving tips to successfully navigate only the land navigation course we have set up at our venue, or gaming the game, is useless. Once the student steps out into a real-life situation, they need the confidence received from taking our course, AND the hard skill sets with mental tools required to navigate in any scenario or environment. At our courses we will instruct the proper techniques for land navigation, from the most basic up to the high-speed bells and whistles you can attach to your wrist. We will gradually increase the difficulty and put the students in less and less comfortable environments. This not only increases the student’s confidence in their skill sets while allowing practice of them, it develops the right mindset as well. This mindset is just as critical as the tools they are using, because if they can’t take a step back and fully observe the environment, the tools are useless.