No matter how long I live in Europe, my internal map still tells me that all streets go either north-south or east-west. Even in cities I’ve lived in for years, I can only navigate by 90-degree intersections and straight lines. My thinking self knows that this is ridiculous, but my going-places self can’t shake its rigid American griddyness. It’s a genuine wonder that I ever arrive anywhere.
For a person with a weathervane for an internal compass, every journey to a new location is an adventure, then an ordeal, then a triumph. I’ve spent at least 80 percent of my biking-time here in a state of oblivion, the remaining 20 percent taken up by epiphanies (‘I’m going south?!’) and recalibrations.
One of the most satisfying things about traveling is besting an unfamiliar transit system and street grid. The first time you make it to your destination without checking the map or consulting the subway chart feels like a genuine achievement. Applying acquired expertise feels good, no matter how microscopic or arbitrary it is.
I expect to feel this achievement sometime next February.