Finding Walmart


The other day I got lost driving to Walmart. We live in a super small town and Walmart is one of the few landmark destinations. Most people down here, when giving directions, start with “Go past the Walmart aways…” or “Make the first right after Walmart…” Finding Walmart is critical. Finding Target would be even more critical for me, but the closest Target is in another state.

My first mistake on this trek was thinking I could manage without the GPS. We’ve lived here over a month, I’ve been to the store multiple times and I was pretty sure I’d memorized the turns, so I turned the friendly GPS off.

My next mistake was following a school bus. Somehow I thought there was a school in that direction. Not even close. I drove for twenty minutes, ended up stuck behind multiple school busses and school pickup traffic, and finally found myself in the historic district of town where the speed limit is a whopping 15mph.  This is a great place to be if you want antiques, a cup of coffee, and a bookstore. If you are looking for an extra long shower curtain liner, a welcome mat and a couple of potted plants, you are pretty much out of luck.

Finally, I got out from behind the school bus, found a place to stop, and turned the GPS on. I plugged in Walmart, and it happily calculated a route for me. The whole way there I forced myself to notice every landmark, every fast food joint, and even a few street names. I told myself that next time I would know how to get there without a robot “recalculating” my every move.

Problem is, I’m a chicken. Getting lost drives me bonkers, especially when we are in a relatively new place. I know it took me three months to feel comfortable driving around without my GPS the last place we lived. The move before that, it rebelled by consistently telling me every location was on the opposite side of the street from where it really was. Maddening, yes, but after a while I began to appreciate its quirks and just assume the opposite.

It drives me crazy at times, but it is definitely my security blanket. Never know when you’ll need to find the closest gas station, a Chick-Fil-A, or a tourist trap. I might get “recalculated” every five minutes and my destination might actually be on the wrong side of the street, but at least I’ll find Walmart.

What do you rely on when you move to a new town? Your GPS, Yelp, your Iphone? How long does it take for you to feel like you know your way around?

About the Author


Mollie has been a Navy Wife for just over two years, when she married the boy who was a blind date to her senior prom. Since then, they have moved four (going on five) times while her husband transitioned from ROTC to his training pipeline. She now knows that it is possible to fit over 700 pounds worth of stuff in a Nissan Versa, that it is important to know how to open the hood of your car before your drive your husband to work on base, and that finding a pen in the pocket of Summer Whites before they go into the washer earns you an ice cream date with the husband. She has yet to figure out what two-thirds of the three letter acronyms her husband speaks in mean, but she is debating making an app for that.

Mollie currently works as a part-time consultant writing reading passages for standardized tests, which isn't quite as boring as it sounds. Between wrangling their dog Finn and keeping up with her husband's ever changing schedule, Mollie enjoys writing, playing tourist in each new city they move to, and perpetually job hunting --ha. After this next move, she hopes to put her degree to use and finally land a job teaching writing courses.

  • When we first moved here, I spent the first week driving around and intentionally getting lost (and then unlost). Now I know this city like the back of my hand, and can’t remember the last time I got lost! I also know about 7 different ways to get to the nearest Target, which comes in handy since my husband still doesn’t know his way around and I have often have to recalculate our route a few times when I let him drive ;)

    • Dana

      I do the exact same thing, and my husband too can’t find his way somewhere even if we’ve been there a gazillion times so I NEED to know my way. Then it makes me feel smart and I get to be super wife when he insists on using the GPS and it gets us lost and take over and get us there. But intentionally getting lost and driving around for hours and hours and hours and hours (even with a kid) is essential. I make it my goal to hit every major freeway/road in the area in the first few weeks. It has been invaluable and I rarely get lost :)

  • Petra

    I just get lost a lot and when I get too lost, I turn on my GPS. Gotta admit though, the GPS has been challenging here in Alabama, for some reason I get to do a LOT of u-turns and drive extra miles…

  • Amy

    I get lost and use iPhone to the rescue when I’m either in a hurry or whatever. I also map my route on my iPhone before leaving the house, and then head in the general direction by a different main road, and then recalculate based on that — then I know how to get there from a different way. I now can get to chick fil a in six different ways. … thats the most important destination in my life ;-)

  • drgnbttrfly

    I am newer to “smart” technology. I love it, but haven’t used it to get acquainted yet. When I get to a new place, I make it a point to get lost and find my way around. I look at maps. Yes, the old paper ones. I figure out the main streets and directions such as north and south. I do this over and over again until I can find my way back using my internal compass. I’m lucky to have a good general sense of direction.

  • FMichaels

    Hmmm…I always tried getting out and getting a job or even volunteering. The act of getting a job or contributing to the community has cured me of not knowing my way around many large metropolitan and smaller cities (some hours from any K or Wal marts). A
    Amazingly many of us managed to do it before the days of GPS. Imagine that!

  • We have been here for almost 4 years. *most* places I can get to…but if it’s somewhere new, I still pull out my “Navigator” on the smart phone. I can usually get a good picture in my head of an area, but this one has stumped me. We even had a map posted on the wall for a while, but since gave that to someone even newer than we are. *sigh* I’ve almost given up on figuring this place out. Maybe some of it is the fact that I DO have the navigator to depend on….the husband is always good with directions. Just wish he were here to help me with them more often!!

  • Pattie

    I get lost all the time. And what’s worse, I’m too cheap to update the GPS maps, so finding a business is futile because they’re all changed. So I just plug in the address instead.

    I think in most cases it takes me about 3 months to REALLY know a place. Although after 2 weeks I felt safe getting the girls to dance in the next city without the GPS. I felt very proud.

  • Adrienne

    A little of all of the above. I tend to look up a location online on MapQuest or Bing beforehand, if possible, and get the address and general location in regards to landmarks. I will usually try to go off of that, but if the location is totally unknown, I’ll use my GPS. I don’t always rely on my GPS because it has taken me some really odd routes before.

    (more in next comment)

    • Adrienne

      When I was at Fort Gordon doing my AFSC training (MOS for you Army people), the first week, I’d use my GPS religiously to find places…until it decided to take me through the ghetto once when the freeway ran parallel to the street it was taking me on. Once I learned the streets and highway exits, it was obvious that I could’ve taken the highway instead of the ghetto backroads.

      (more in next comment…urgh…are these things set to 100 words or less?)

      • Adrienne

        Also, when we were going to Eglin AFB for AFT, I used the GPS to get there. Well, it told me to exit the interstate in Alabama (I think it was) then proceeded to take me down every backroad in the state to get to Florida…it even took me through neighborhoods. What was even worse was that, on the way home, I figured i’d be clever and try to bypass it to try and force it not to take the backroad route. It still took me off of the interstate, though on what looked like a major state road, but then turned off onto a road that took me through the most oppressive, creepy looking swampland. It felt like something out of a horror movie…especially since it was early in the morning, still dark and foggy. I swear it took me in circles for a good half hour before emerging into civilization. And it still took me up the back roads the rest of the way.

  • Sarah

    I thought of this post today when my GPS took me to an empty building. It clearly looked like it *used* to be a Walmart…but it wasn’t the nice new one on the outskirts of town. Gotta keep learning my new town too!