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It’s been 15 years since maps first appeared on our smart phones and now it’s rare to find a young person with a city map, road atlas, or Thomas Guide in their car. Actually, it’s not just young people, we’ve all gotten spoiled to having step-by-step directions spoken aloud by our phone apps but, since today is Read a Road Map Day, we’re reviewing the steps of reading a paper road map!


Now, dig out that ratty old map from the trunk of dad’s car, or ask the neighbors, or visit the local library and ask a librarian if you can borrow one, and let’s get to navigating—the old-fashioned way! (When the zombie apocalypse comes, you’ll be glad we did this refresher.)


How to Find Your Home on the Map

No matter where you live—rural countryside or sprawling metro—there’s a paper road map for your place in the world. Did you find yours? Let’s begin!

  1. Open your map and orient it so that north is at the top.
  2. Locate the map legend (aka the map key). This will be a box near the edge of the map that defines all the visual symbols used on the map.
  3. Find the alphabetical street listing. (It’s probably on the back.)
  4. Find the name of your street in the street listing and make a note of the letter and number coordinate next to it. For example: R-5, AA-2, W-8 and so on.
  5. Go back to the map and find those coordinates! Note the grid that’s established by letters along one edge, numbers on the perpendicular edge. Use your finger to follow the matching column and row to the point where they intersect in the middle of the map.
  6. Locate your street inside the square of the grid where your coordinates intersect.
  7. Zero in on the location of your home on the street.
  8. You’re home!

See how easy? If the road map is your own (not borrowed), draw an “X” to mark the location of your home on it. Now you can reference that mark as you visually explore the map and find other familiar landmarks. Once you feel comfortable with how your “X” relates to the map as a whole, look up the address of your nearby Aaron’s location and follow the same steps! Now you know exactly how to get to Aaron’s even without your smart phone.