We all get lost sometimes, it happens to the best of us (at least that’s what I tell myself). This is especially true if you’re going to be spending time in the enormous city that never sleeps, New York City. Getting lost always seems to happen at the worst time, too. Trust me, I lived in New York for about a year and during my last month there, it happened. I was on my way back from the Bronx, well after the sun had set, heading to my dorm in Queens. My charger was broken and the final percentage of my phone battery that I had desperately clung to drained away. It was okay though, I knew the way home like the back of my hand. Or so I thought. After waiting for what seemed to be forever (the later it gets, the slower the buses run in the city), my bus finally came. This was a bus I had taken several times before, so I got on, found a seat, sat back and relaxed. That was until I noticed the bus pull in to an unfamiliar location and stop. The location was full of other buses and everyone remaining on the bus got off. I didn’t know why or how (I still haven’t quite figured it out), but I took the bus to the final parking stop. Thanks to common sense, I managed to make it home from an unfamiliar area in NYC, late at night, with a dead phone. Here’s how I did it and how you can make it home if you ever got lost without a working phone:
- STAY CALM! I can’t stress this enough. It’s easier said than done, but when you go into panic mode your mind is all over the place and thinking practically is the last possible thing you can do. If you realize that you’re lost, don’t start thinking about all of the awful things that could happen to you. Just don’t even allow the thought to cross your mind, push it away immediately and stay focused on your goal: getting back. Once I was back home, I realized I could have very easily been mugged, murdered, or any combination of horrible things, but at the moment I was so set on getting home that I didn’t let these thoughts occur to me.
- FOLLOW A CROWD! Okay, so for me there wasn’t a large crowd anywhere at the stop since Queens isn’t the busiest area of New York, but there were a few groups of people walking in the same direction. The thing about New York is that there is bound to be some amount of people outside, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a common direction people are headed in. Of course, they might not necessarily be going where you want to go, but the whole idea is that if many people who don’t know each other are headed in the same direction, they are headed to public area, which makes it easier to get help. Just be sure to keep a safe distance when following them because you never know what kind of intentions people have. (Side Note: If you can’t find any kind of crowd, walk down a well lit street where you can see stores or some sign of a public area ahead)
- DON’T LOOK LOST! This is extremely important for being lost anywhere. If you look lost, you look vulnerable and are an easy target for someone with bad intentions. If you look like you know exactly where you’re headed and are in a rush to get there, you’re more likely to be left alone. How exactly do you do this? Once you’ve found your crowd or general direction, walk directly towards where you want to go with your head up confidently, eyes straight ahead, and a quick pace. You’ll look very focused and very not lost.
- ASK FOR DIRECTIONS! Be very careful with this step. You’ll want to ask someone who appears trustworthy (this doesn’t mean they are trustworthy, but follow your instincts). Try to ask a woman if possible, not that women can’t do anything bad to you, but they are statistically less likely to. Stand a decent amount of distance away from the person that you’re asking in case you need to make a quick get away from them. What I did was once the groups I was following for awhile started to lead to a busier street with stores and more people walking, I asked two teenage girls where the train station was. Of course, this was an easy question to answer because it wasn’t far away, but if you’re in New York someone will know of one somewhere and can point you in the general direction.
- BE OBSERVANT! The reason that I thought to ask where the train station was in the first place is because I remembered being near the area I wandered into at one point to take the train in a certain direction. This was only once a long time ago, so I wasn’t sure where it was exactly, but since I was observing the places around me I was able to piece together that I was somewhere near the station. Even if no matter where you walk you have absolutely no clue where you are, being observant will save you. You could be lucky enough to notice subway signs or a taxi service place. Even if you don’t see these, keep in mind that if you’re seeing a lot of stores and places to eat or things to do, you’re bound to be at least somewhat near a method of transportation. How else would people get to these things if many New Yorkers don’t have cars? While parts of New York can be extremely dangerous, it’s also not the worst place to get lost in because as long as you keep walking, you’re going to end up in a place with things to do.
- GO INTO AN ENCLOSED PUBLIC AREA! For me, this was the train station that the girls pointed me towards. This is the perfect place to go when you’re lost, because even if you’re not sure what train to take, you can ask someone working in the station and they can help you. You should always be carrying money or a Metrocard on you wherever you go, but if you so happen to have none, a worker might give you a break and let you ride for free or at the very least let you use a phone so you can get into contact with someone who can help you out. If this enclosed public area is not a place to get transportation, go for it anyway if you can’t find any. Every business has a phone, so no matter what store, library, restaurant, or whatever you walk into, you’ll at least have a way to get in touch with help.
- GET TO YOUR DESTINATION ASAP! Once you’ve found your public place and got your ride straightened out, go directly to where you need to go. As soon as I was in that train station, I swiped my Metrocard (that I very luckily had) and got on the train that I knew would take me back to the bus stop I was at to begin with. This time, when the bus got there, I asked the bus driver if the bus was going to my destination so that I wouldn’t have to end up going through the same thing all over again. It was, so I took it to where I needed to go and stayed alert the entire ride back to make sure I got to the right stop, let out a huge sigh of relief when I did, and went back to the dorm that I had never been so happy to see in my life. No matter how confident you are that you finally know your way back, don’t make any stops along the way or stop paying attention to the things around you. The faster you’re back where you need to be, the less likely it is that something will happen to you, so get back as soon as you know that you can.
That’s it! Every situation is different, but generally following these steps will get you where you need to be safely if you’re ever lost in NYC without a phone. Hopefully this never actually happens to you because it’s a scary experience, but now you’ll be prepared if it ever does (lesson learned though: always make sure your phone is charged or that you at least have a working charger). Have you ever been lost somewhere? What did you do or do you have any other advice? Let me know in the comments!