Map Reading: An Acquired Skill

I know I’ve mentioned my love of chalkboards, but I also have a bit of love for maps. I love the look of maps, the soft colors of blue and green and yellow, but also the black and white antique maps and the bold colors often used on the USA map. And not just maps, but globes, too. I would love to have a variety of globes adorning the mantel one day.

But what fuels this love? Is it because I often dreamt of living in other places when I was a kid? Of expanding my horizons far past the little town I grew up in? Maybe. Or it could simply be an aesthetic one. Maps are pretty.

I can tell you it is not because I am an expert at reading maps. I am the person who decided that the best way to get to Texas from Maryland was not to consult a map, but to drive west and then eventually south, guessing I’d see a sign that would direct me the further I got from Maryland and the closer I got to Texas. Luckily my mother intervened and forced a road atlas into my hands minutes before I hit the open road. (I say luckily because I did use the map to get me to my destination which the Adult Me recognizes as the best result, but really might have my plan worked also? The Free Spirit Me believes it might have made for a far more interesting trip!) Granted, I was 19 at the time, but I’m pretty sure that today if there was no Mapquest and I didn’t have a GPS in our car I would be more inclined to trust there would be signs and not consult a map.

I suppose I learned map reading skills sometime during my education, but somewhere between longitude and latitude and identifying countries in front of the entire classroom…well, it coincided with having to wear glasses and being embarrassed at wearing those awful brown glasses and so having no idea what was going on in the front of the classroom because I couldn’t see…well, you get the idea. I’m pretty sure I missed out on acquiring decent map reading skills out of vanity.

It was on one of my subsequent cross country trips when I was driving west with a friend of mine that I learned map reading was a skill. And I say that because I’d never given it a thought until that trip. I’d handed my friend the map and asked her to navigate and it stressed her out so much I had to pull over and give her a pep talk. She always referenced that trip, about how I helped her to see that she could, in fact, do something like read a map, which I guess had at one time been an issue in her childhood. My husband would probably think this is funny because I’m pretty quick to hand him the map or to call him for navigational advice!

What about you, dear Reader? Any life skills you’ve found yourself lacking as you navigate the bumpy road of adulthood?

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14 thoughts on “Map Reading: An Acquired Skill

  1. While map READING is a skill, an even greater skill IMO is map FOLDING. (For those of you whippersnappers who grew up with GPS systems, maps used to have to be UNFOLDED, from a small compact shape to which they could never afterwards be easily returned.)

    Your driving to Texas story reminds me of the time, shortly after I moved to LA, when a friend was flying out for a visit. I didn’t bother to get her airline or flight number; in fact, I wasn’t even sure of which airport she was coming from. My sister about had a fit, when I asked her, how many flights could possibly be arriving at LAX at such-and-such a time? Lol.

    My culinary skills are still lackluster, but I am actually okay with that. Can sew enough to do simple repairs, and can use a screwdriver (regular or Phillips) as necessary.

  2. I’m also a map fan. Haven’t succumbed to buying a GPS, but there have been times it would have made things a little easier. My kids, however, couldn’t get across their own city by reading a map. Yet another skill lost by a generation raised on Google. I love maps because I love the big picture of how one place relates to another.

  3. I too like maps, the paper kind. It’s because if want to see the WHOLE picture, unlike what you get with digital maps that show you only a small piece of where you are going.

    As for lacking skills, gardening and canning are the two biggies. I’m not good at gardening, and I hate the very idea of canning, yet people seem to be returning to these old timey pursuits.

    Give me a map, a car, and I’m off!

    • Good point. It is nice to see the whole picture, helps put things in perspective. I try to garden, but that’s not going so well and I’m afraid to try canning. Thanks for visiting!

  4. Interesting that this entire post neglected to mention what I think may be foundational to your lack of map reading skill.

    I was astonished to observe while we were dating the method that you often employed to keep track of which direction was left vs. right by holding up your left hand in the shape of an ‘L’. It was hysterical to me why anyone would need to learn this more than once!

    • I’m sorry, sir, but you were to comment on what life skills YOU were lacking, not sharing additional skills I lack. My inability to remember left/right is probably a sure sign of my genius, which I prefer to keep under wraps lest folks think I’m bragging!

  5. I’m like you. I’d leave and just head in the direction I thought I needed to go in. Of course I also would be hopelessly lost in ten minutes, but that would be part of the fun! πŸ˜€

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