If I freak out on the rare occasion I lose sense of which way is north, how do people who never know which way is north get by in life? I honestly cannot grasp this. My mother-in-law is one of those people who gets lost in Anchorage despite having the obvious navigational aid of the Chugach Mountains in the east. If she takes a route even slightly different from the route she's used to, she is hopelessly lost and may need to call me for help. Meanwhile, I actively explore new routes around town to get somewhere, not afraid that I'll get lost. And when hiking and cross country skiing, I love venturing off-trail, knowing that if I get a little disoriented, I'll probably be okay (even if I don't have GPS with me).
I often wonder if directional intelligence is something inherited or learned. I know that I was reading maps and guiding my parents around places as early as toddlerhood, which perhaps would suggest that at least some of it is inherited. But I don't think it's totally inherited. Directional intelligence comes with reading maps and knowing an area's landmarks, geography, and which was is north/south/east/west before trying to navigate in the area. Do I have a magnetic compass in my head? I don't think so. If I was blindfolded and placed in a new location on a cloudy day without any previous knowledge of the area's geography, I would be lost too. I believe through frequently reading maps and applying the maps to the real world, you can obtain directional intelligence. And no, just listening to your car's audible GPS directions, doesn't count!