Remember routes


I’ve been recently in a life-threatening situation simply because I have no sense of spatial orientation whatsoever and I can’t remember a route unless I travel through it dozens of times. I say, enough!

In perusing this forum in search of methods for remembering routes, I bumped into the following threads:

These threads assisted me to devise a very preliminary method, which I have been using for mixed results. It is based on a few features of interest in any route:

  • Start point
  • directions
  • turns
  • intervening not-taken roads
  • points of interest
  • road names
  • End point

Based on that, I came up with a reasonably easy system to encompass all that based on common techniques that all of you use, namely, substitute words, links, 0-99 major system-based list and binary numbers.

The gist is this:

I still don’t have a full vocabulary for road features, but I find it essential to have. The Open Street Map project may be used as the starting point for coming up with such list.

With respect to right and left, I’ve been using:

right - anything related to extreme-right movements such as Nazism, Fascism, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. Also, anything related to “writing”, e.g., a pen, a book, a rubber, a famous writer, etc.

left - anything related to Communism such as the hammer and the sickle, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse Tung, etc. Also, a wrist-watch, a heart, etc.

Binary numbers must all begin with 1, simply because 000001, 0001 or 001 are all 1. So, a leading 1 must be added when coding and disregarded when decoded. As an example, imagine that after a given POI, you have two roads to the right, then one to the left. These would be encoded as (1 + 110) = 1110 = 14, which in my system is Thor.

I have been using this system for the past few days and my improvement in remembering routes has been astonishing. But I don’t credit the system per se as much as the simple fact that I’ve been consciously thinking about the routes and looking them up in Google Earth. So, I’d like your help to judge the system’s efficacy and to improve it in any way possible.

A brief selection of the pros and cons of the system I have noticed so far follows:


  • allows relatively high detail in memorised routes;
  • doesn’t use memory palaces, so it is faster to apply and don’t waste our precious memory palaces;
  • has a huge potential of creating memory palaces; the routes easily become themselves memory palaces that can be re-used for further remembering;
  • since you are remembering actual spatial locations, the linked images tend to appear in your mind located in their respective places and this improves with review. So, the process of turning the routes into long-term memories is natural and the initial associative mental capacity you are using to follow the links is naturally turned into spatial awareness, which are both the inherent “strong points” of our minds (well, apparently not of mine, though) and the basis for the memory palace method to work.


  • there is a lot of repetition. Roads, highways, squares, etc. form a limited set of features that must nevertheless be remembered. I propose that a list of mnemonic images be created to represent these features and speed up conversion, but even if more than one image are used for the same feature, a lot of repetition is unavoidable. This is not, I believe, so much a problem with the system as it is an inherent issue of the task faced, but it is a problem nevertheless. The same thing happens with right or left turns and the corresponding images;
  • Conversion from binary number takes time. I know practice will greatly improve conversion times from binary to decimal, but it is an issue. Moreover, whenever you make the conversion, you now have to keep that string of ones and zeros in your mind and mentally follow it while you count the roads you see. This is fallible. However, the use of POIs along the way and, specially, whenever you actually make a turn, makes the use of binary numbers for intervening roads a kind of “luxury” item, something that gives a good amount of detail to your route, but is not extremely necessary in most cases;
  • The placing of POI-images to the right or to the left in the linked chain is elegant for its simplicity, but also fallible. However, again, it is not an extremely necessary information. What you can’t miss is the POI with the left or right instructions, otherwise you will miss the correct turn.

I’d really like to hear any comments, suggestions and ideas from you guys.

Thanks a lot!


For completeness sake, I am adding these links on map memorisation (courtesy of Josh Cohen in this thread):

The second thread from the top-down links to a possibly interesting software for mnemonic memorisation of countries and capitals. I am currently downloading BlueStacks to see if I can run this android app in my mac. I’ll post any comments later. People seem to like the app.


The app uses nothing more than substitute words for the country and its capital to come up with simple images to aid memorisation. Nothing much…