Ditching the satnav: the lost secrets of natural navigation

Stuart Heritage:

Tristan Gooley has got me lost in the middle of London – which, I’ll admit, isn’t a terribly huge achievement. I’m routinely lost in the middle of London. My journeys tend to consist of a hard stare at a map app, 50 paces in the wrong direction and then a kind of abject sustained fumble until I arrive at wherever I’m supposed to be 10 minutes after I’m supposed to be there. And that’s me with Google Maps. Without Google Maps, I’m 80% sure I would have given up and moved into a ditch some years ago.

However, this time is different. Gooley, often known as the Natural Navigator, has got me lost on purpose. He’s covered my eyes and led me by the arm through the backstreets of central London, taking time to spin me around every now and again for maximum disorientation. And now, right in the middle of nowhere, he’s asked me to take him to one specific Oxford Street branch of Wasabi.

“Remember what I said,” he tells me. I look up. The sun is directly in front of me, throwing all manner of shadows in my direction. It’s lunchtime, so that means I must be facing south. The clouds, too, are lazily drifting from west to east, just as they were last time my eyes were open. I tentatively make my way towards the sun and, miraculously, I find myself on Oxford Street. Then I follow the clouds eastwards and, bingo, I’ve got to where I need to be.