Getting lost is underrated. When I travel, half of the fun is making unexpected discoveries and stumbling upon hidden treasures. But when you’re on a dot of a rock in the middle of the ocean with fewer roads across its entire landmass than there are tracks in the New York City subway system, getting lost can actually be difficult. Difficult, but fortunately, not impossible. As a native islander who knows many of the roadways, byways, traces, and tracks on my rock, I’ve mastered the art of getting lost every now and then using these three foolproof methods.
If you’re in the mood to get a little derailed on your next island adventure, here’s what you can do:
1. Follow Your Navigational App to the Letter
Go ahead. Do exactly what it says, because the truth is that not all GPS systems are ready for small island navigation.
“You have arrived at your destination,” Waze announced with confidence, 34 minutes into what was supposed to have been a 19 minute drive. Before me and behind me stretched a bumpy dirt road that the soothing voice instructed me to take. It was flanked by thick bushes on either side, but nothing else. No Waze, this deserted patch of land was not my destination.
You see, our little rocks are chock-full of narrow passages that don’t always register accurately on these systems. Sometimes platforms like Waze and Google Maps misjudge a turnoff. Other times, they’re right on the money, but just for kicks (or maybe to prove to us that they do know our road systems just a little bit), they ignore the obvious and reliable paths and select meandering routes through backroads and side streets, turning a simple 25 minute drive into a 43 minute commute.
Of course, using technology to get you lost is not the ideal scenario if you’re on a schedule, but if you’ve got time on your hands and you’re in the mood for a surprise or two, give it a try! You’ll be surprised at the amazing things you might encounter at their suggestions.
2. Ask a Local for Directions, and Follow Them to a T
Bless our souls, I promise you we have good intentions, but in the case of my rock, Trinbagonians aren’t the best at giving directions.
“Drive down this road, stay on it for a lil ways then you’ll come to a corner, a lil hill, and just turn right there,” the very accommodating gentleman instructed me. I nodded, making a note of this “lil hill” as a landmark in my head. “OK, so I take a right at the corner with the hill,” I say out loud to confirm his instructions, but he shakes his head vehemently and responds with a laugh, “Nah! Nah, nah, nah, the hill on the left, I just mean you turning right dey.” Of course, I should have known.
I assure you, we’re the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and we love to assist visitors to our islands and villages anyway we can. But when it comes to giving directions, we’re a bit of a hot mess. We use ‘right’ to mean ‘immediate;’ we use ‘up’ when geographically it’s ‘down;’ we’re oblivious to cardinal points; we measure distance in minutes; and we have a terrible habit of mentioning landmarks you shouldn’t encounter. As in, “If you reach the big mango tree, you gone too far.”
So go ahead, stop and ask a local for directions, then do exactly what they say. You’ll most likely turn right when it should be left and if you’re lucky, it might lead you to a gorgeous beach, a stunning view, or the best little bar on the whole island!
3. Read a Map
Maps are great to help you get the lay of the land. They’re also great souvenirs. But unless you’re a pro navigator and can estimate distances to scale, you might find them lacking in certain details to help you get around.
Imagine, if you will, a series of streets so close to each other that they all seem to lead to that off-the-beaten path landmark you’re hoping to find. Neither Waze nor Google Maps identifies this specific road by name and you have no clue if you’ve actually driven the 800 km you were supposed to before making that next left turn. Because it’s not a prominent attraction, there is no signage marking the way to your hidden gem and these tiny streets aren’t prominent enough to be named on your map. What do you do?
Easy – just pick one and drive on confidently until you (a) find what you’re looking for; (b) happen upon a local to ask for directions (fingers crossed they don’t derail you even further); or (c) discover something completely unrelated but just as cool (or even cooler) than your initial destination.
The truth is, on a beautiful island, very few turns can be considered ‘wrong turns.’ Even if you don’t arrive at your intended Point A, chances are points B, C, and D will be just as rewarding.
So remember that island time means you can be a little late and island vibes means that you don’t always need to have a plan. Just get in the car and make a conscious effort to get a little lost every now and then!