Moving to a new country starts like an adventure, a challenge, and in your mind it opens tons of possibilities. It not only does that, but it also makes you imagine all kinds of experiences and enhances the desire to learn and understand a new culture and language. For me, this desire sometimes kept me awake at night.
I moved to Germany one year ago and like most foreigners do in the first three moths of their arrival, I fell in love with the country right away. Having lived for many years in the dry Valley of Texas, now I particularly admired the perpetual green all around me, the beautiful forest and the perfect access to water through all the lakes and the rivers around Berlin.
What I did not count on, was that I was going to feel so lost and my sense of belonging would disappear so quickly. I realized very soon that besides my family I did not know anybody else in this big city.
I have to confess I have this tendency to be so disoriented. I could even forget where I had parked my car at Wal-Mart back home. Soon I realized in Berlin I always needed a map. A map made me feel safe.
Back then I only knew how to get into the subway to attend the German class and back home. I did not dare to explore other places of the city yet. Perhaps I would get lost and would not know how to ask? Back then I did not realize yet that most Berliners speak English fluently. I always felt lost, where could I buy a charger for my phone? An electric converter to 220 Volt? Where to buy groceries, things for the house, go to the doctor and where to find social connections, friendship?
Luckily I was not alone, I was married to a man who had lived in Berlin through out his teenage years. So he became my guide, my interpreter, my protector and teacher. Being used to driving on my own in the United States, taking our children to the parks, the beach, their doctors’ appointment, etc. it was really difficult for me to have to depend on him to drive me around. How long would it take for me to feel independent again?
One day I noticed he was using Google Maps, and became very interested in this application, but I did not dare to venture on my own because I felt if I got lost or my cell phone died, I would not be able to communicate with strangers to find my way back home.
But this fear had to be faced and there is nothing better than having friends around to face and challenge your fears. My friends came to visit me almost a year after I had arrived in Berlin. By this point I would use the car for basic necessities, like picking up the children from school or going to the supermarket nearby, or the doctor. For all these places I did not need Google Maps.
But a promised changed all that. I had promised my friends to drive them to Prague. I needed maps. By the time they arrived although they did not know I was scared to the bone about the challenge of driving them there.
Seeing them also brought back a lot of good memories and their presence gave me happiness, security, love. I learned through their visit that there is no better way to face your fears, than when you are with people you trust.
So we packed the car, my husband gave me a few lessons about Google Maps before we left and on we drove away to unknown places ready to be discovered by three curious Mexican-American women in a small car with Goggle Maps as our guide. I should also say that Elsy was such a good co-pilot who would guide me with Google Maps instructions.
As I drove and became more assured we were heading in the right direction I became so grateful to the people behind the screen who make Google Maps possible. Thanks to them we could not only find parking lots, our lodging, but also find restaurants, places to visit with incredible accuracy.
After arriving home from this trip I became a different person. I was no longer afraid to venture into the streets of Berlin center by car, to visit the friends I had made that year, to bring a gift for a newborn baby or invite friends to the park, or visit them in their homes.
With Google Maps I felt more empowered to do what needed to be done, not only for my family but also for my own needs of finding social connections. With Google Maps I was able to find the homes of the people who matter to me, such as my friends whom made me feel less lonely, and made me feel I finally belonged here.
All of these things were possible because of an app.
I am so grateful today to an unknown group of people who are strangers to me but had the wonderful idea of creating Google Maps. Thanks to them in a foreign land I got my independence back.