What it feels like to get lost

Nov 04, 2018

It’s 7:04 am, the heated seats just started warming up. The sun gently warms my right shoulder as the Jeep rolls South over the dark and jagged volcanic rocks of Johnson Valley. “In one point seven kilometers we will rise in elevation through a narrow mountain pass, and there will be a dry lakebed directly ahead,” my navigator tells me. But it’s not Siri or Alexa finding my way; it’s Amy Lee — my co-worker and passenger — who holds a magnifying glass to the wrinkled map resting on her lap.

We crest the middle of a valley after traveling less than point eight kilometers. There is no dry lakebed in sight. A silent expletive explodes like a tiny and powerful firework inside my brain. “Where’s North?” I whisper, suddenly realizing that the sun rises in the East and, if we were facing South, my right shoulder would be fully shaded. On this brisk October morning, we are lost.

What do you do when you’re lost? Normally I’d pull out my phone, look for that trusty blue dot and check my location or wait for my re-route. But on the Rebelle Rally, we willingly turned in our phones to get back to the basics. So my options are: Breathe. Then find North.

We stop the Jeep, climb to the nearest, highest point, and use our compass to orient the map North. After identifying three distinct features in both the surrounding topography and paper map, we are able to triangulate our position. It takes almost thirty minutes from the moment of realization of being lost to the moment we can re-fasten our seat belts and roll forward.


For the unique setting of the Rebelle Rally, an 8-day navigation and endurance rally, there is an intentional thrill and challenging complexity to finding your way through the most remote corner of the American West. But in the real-world, losing connectivity means losing your way or losing some functionality. It’s not fun. It’s frustrating.

With offline routing — in beta for our Navigation SDK on iOS and Android — you don’t have to worry about getting lost anymore.

In the time it took us to “manually reroute” in Johnson Valley we could have scored two more checkpoints, brewed some instant coffee, and enjoyed the tail end of the desert sunrise. Or, in that time, a remote search and rescue team could find two lost hikers, a delivery driver could drop off dozens of anxiously anticipated packages, or a mountain biker could nail an uninterrupted run down Mount Tam. They can do all of this whether or not they have connectivity — no compass required — with offline routing.

Offline routing lets you request new routes in disconnected or low-connected environments. But even better, if you go-off route, the system will seamlessly reroute you, keeping you headed to your destination without loosing any time or needing to reconnect. Perfect for the next time you’re miles from anywhere, testing your skills among the sand and boulders of Johnson Valley.