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How to avoid map reading arguments?


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I'm sure most of us have come across these one or all of these scenarios.

1 - The SatNav stops working

2 - The SatNav refuses to offer you a 'sensible' route to our destination

3 - You're trolling along in the motorhome, following the SatNav, when we come across an accident or a poorly signposted diversion for a closed road.

4 - The SatNav starts telling you to go down a farm track or on to an industrial estate,


In all these circumstances one is forced to resort to what I call "The Divorce Papers". - Yep, welcome to the world of trying to not have an almighty row when your spouse won't/can't map read!


So here is my question. Can anyone point me towards a book/video/webpage/training course for my lovely better half so that she can learn how to understand and follow a map when she is map reading? She is a very intelligent lady who just has a blindspot/gets flustered when trying to read a map and she wouldn't listen to me.


Any help/ideas gratefully received.



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I suggest you are being unrealistic; some people cannot mapread and navigate,  end of story.  (Divorces are far more expensive than solving this problem another way!)


Pull over safely, get the map out yourself and plan which way to go, then write yourself a list of turning points, explain to your OH what she could do to help (eg read out the list and tick off the turning points on it) and then drive on.  If you get lost stop again and re-plan.


Also Satnavs are cheap these days,  carry a spare cheap one.  I've just paid £37 for a truck-specific satnav with a seven inch display off EBay and it works!Link to ebay

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Get a divorce :-) It is the only way!


When my navigator was made redundant by the purchase of a sat nav, she used to argue with the sat nav woman!! I carry a spare sat nav and a smart phone so I always have another option. I give my navigator a list of towns we will pass through and she follows these until she falls asleep, then she wakes up and asks "where are we"?


It seems strange to me that some people simply cannot read a map, but that is a fact. I can remember using a compass and taking bearings to navigate across France! That was when the smaller roads just didn't have signposts ( and some of the major ones too) so it was a matter of taking a bearing and following the compass.


Still, by getting lost we visited many towns and villages we might not have otherwise found, and some of those farm tracks got us into some interesting places ( that's a whole new story).



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You could book her on to the navigation module of the Day Skipper or Yachmaster exam course. Both SWMBO and I did it for sailing and though she's now OK at mapreading, can only do it by holding the map in the relevant orientation, 'cos that's what they teach you. So for example if we're heading south she'll turn the map upside down ann of course will say, "turn left/right" but won't know what the next town is.


Best to DIY. Or get a better phone/satnav?

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SWMBO can't usually tell her left hand from her right hand and no course on Earth will probably change that.

Just accept that you won't get divorced but just have a frosty feeling in the cab for some miles or some minutes.

We use Copilot and/or Campercontact on our devices and a decent large scale map in the UK and abroad.

We've managed 51 years of marriage with out actually throttling each other over a minor map reading problem.

Calm down, Dear


:-o :-o :-o :-o

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ColinM50 - 2018-04-06 10:18 AMYou could book her on to the navigation module of the Day Skipper or Yachmaster exam course. Both SWMBO and I did it for sailing and though she's now OK at mapreading, can only do it by holding the map in the relevant orientation, 'cos that's what they teach you. So for example if we're heading south she'll turn the map upside down ann of course will say, "turn left/right" but won't know what the next town is.Best to DIY. Or get a better phone/satnav?

Day Skipper or Yachtmaster? Really? Tee Hee!

I've never seen tidal flow charts, for the Alps or Pyrenees and I think that lighthouses and cardinals are few & far between? (Maybe a few in Rome?) And what happens if the wind is blowing across the road, what tack does your motorhome take, and who has right of way round the mark? (Do you call "Water" or "Tarmac"!)

Using Marine navigating in a motorhome could give new meaning to the term "Cross track error" I think.

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Your wife may not be the problem, Michael. Ditch the satnav. It hampers your awareness of the road system. If you an awareness of the roads around you, you should be able to sort out any problems yourself.


I have a sheet of paper with the route on eg M53, A41 Whitchurch. Whatever you write must make sense to you. I use the satnav as backup to that. Planning the route using a map gives me a spacial feel of where I'm going and in time, builds a better understanding of the road network.


Does your wife want to learn? There is an old saying, "Never teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." Of course, your wife is not a pig but she must want to learn. Otherwise just pull over and read the map yourself. A poor navigator can cause problems for the driver and other vehicles.


Women tend to have less spacial awareness than men [i can support this claim with evidence]. Hence reading a map can be more difficult. It is difficult for anyone to read a map when the vehicle is in motion. Check her eyesight, including colour blindness, and make sure she has a fighting chance of reading the map. You can't look at the map and the roadsigns at the same time.


If she's doing the map reading, she should choose the map. My wife prefers large scale road atlases. There is no shortage of advice etc on the web but most is focused on reading OS maps.


My wife has become a reliable map reader. When called upon, I help her find where we are and where I want to be [verbally, not finger pointing at the map]. I leave her to it then and she navigates. I'm calm and follow her instructions - we have rules such as 'no white roads without agreement' ie unclassified roads. Its practice.There is no magic wand solution.




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michaelmorris - 2018-04-06 12:14 PM

My wife has agreed that she will try to learn how to map read.

I'm looking for a resource that will help her do it on her own, so that that she can feel it is her learning it, rather than me teaching it.


It's called a map or an atlas and the best way to learn how to use is to read it and use it.


If the good lady follows the sat nav route on the map and looks at road signs along the way that might give her an insight into the vaguaries of the road numbering system and signposting.

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Geocaching ? Orientering ? If you like a bit of walking , take a map and explain ( if she is the listening sort ?) how map features are displayed.


The OS mapping have a lot of interactive advice and apps for beginners, and those that need a bit of an update on mapping, geocaching and using handheld GPS units



Mind you you, you will have to tread on egg shells, if the tide is against you. Cannot mix my metaphors more ;-)



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You are never lost ... you are just not where you intended.


Life is a journey and the destination is a hole in the ground. 8-)


Just relax and make a note of your route on a scrap of paper slipped into the sun visor. A few minutes preparation is much better than a Divorce, becoming alcoholic and ending up sleeping in a Shop doorway.


You know it makes sense. :D

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Start simply & allow her skill to evolve gradually as her confidence improves.

List road changes & new direction (M1j 24 to M69 W) with next enroute destination.

Don't orient map/atlas to direction of travel. (you can't read road numbers / next destination)

Travelling North you are going up the page. Going South you are going down the page. West = left, East = right.

She can then follow your list whilst plotting it on the map herself.

Alternatively print off route from an online route finder (e.g. AA, RAC or similar) these have the advantage of expected travel time between route changes.

So within a short time she will be able to anticipate when to tell you that you will soon be coming up your next change.


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You should start off with a good satnav with updated maps and crucially you the driver need to understand its functionality and in particular how you display a computed route for checking and understanding before travel.

Secondly you need good maps. We have built up a collection of OS 1 inch maps (i:50,000) which we use if we have them but OS have in 2016 resurveyed and reissued their "Green" 1:250,000 OD maps which are great.

It should be fun to learn the colouring scheme for roads and the symbols for points of interest but describing "a blue road" or a red road" or "oh no a white road" will convey meaning to the driver even if the navigator can't remember if it is a motorway or a farm track.


As a starting point you need to know where you are navigating FROM and the best time to establish that is at the beginning of the journey. So a briefing with the map and the route allows the navigator to understand the route (and write it down if long or complex). This also allows you to adjust/ignore segments of the route which as computed by the satnav are daft. With experience a map reading navigator will also be able to do this on the hoof as they occur.

Your navigator can get used to the map by following the journey as it unfolds (the journey and the map).


It should be fairly easy to understand the road you are on (especially a main road with a road number) and the general direction of travel . Take in the scale of the map say (roughly) 4 inches per mile and your navigator will be able to roughly estimate how far you have come/how far you need to go even if it is expressed in inches you can convert in your head.


There are many tricks to help working out where you are but my favourite is a river (often identified by a name sign) bisecting the road. This allows you to pinpoint your location.


Learning at least four compass points is easy


N (ever)

E (at)

S (hredded)

W (heat)


North is (nearly) always at the top of the map so if you are going up you are going north (ish) if you are going right you are going east(ish) if you are going left you are going west (ish) and if you are going down you are going south (ishj) . Of course a road will sometimes go in a counter intuative direction for a short time but it becomes easy to understand if you are going in generally the right direction.


Using these building blocks of knowledge it is relative easy to start to understand and enjoy a map. It is like reading a book. My wife started off totally scared of maps but has become a skilled and very useful "co-pilot" so take it easily and slowly before travelling and it will come. A good map and a good map-reader is better than a satnav any day but used properly in combination they are great.


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I have no such problems as my wife is an excellent map reader and seems to know instinctively where we are and where to go, even when signs are non existent or confusing. Same thing when we are out walking as she has a keen sense of direction and awareness of her surroundings. Take her to a place once and she can take you back there again years later - without a map. No idea how she does it.


Me, on the other hand, you would not trust with a map or directions as I have virtually no awareness of my surroundings and a complete lack of interest in maps. I always rely on a sat nav whilst driving or walking and even then I can go wrong. It drives my wife mad when we are out on a walk that we may have down 20 times and I say "where do we go from here?". I once famously got lost driving from the house we had lived in for 15 years and my parents house, which was 40 miles away and actually ended up after 1 1/2 hours driving almost back at my house instead of my parents house! Another one was before sat nags when I used to religiously follow my wife's directions. She told me to take the next left so I did and drove into someone's drive - never lived that one down.


I think my problem is that I do not pay attention to where I am so cannot relate that to a map and I have little recollection of how I got to where I am.

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