I suppose if you expect to bug in you don't really need to learn how to read a map, especially if you never travel far. Even though the office I work at isn't too far from home I have a lot of field work to accomplish. I need to learn how to read a map. I also need to remember where I've been.
I've used Google Earth a lot. It's a great tool, as long as you don't focus on the fact that it's a total invasion of privacy when you get a close in view. It is a great tool for figuring out where dirt roads are. When you compare the picture on Google Earth and a quad map it's pretty easy to get around.
It's important to remember where you've been. You hear about people getting lost and walking around in circles or driving around in circles. You need to pay attention to landmarks. Give them funny names to help you remember.
I'm got called out of town last night. I'm only a couple hours from home but still in an area that I don't work in too often. I worked in this same area about ten years ago, five years ago and again last year. It's going to be an easy week because I won't have to worry about where I am. It's much easier just to know where I am without having to spend time on maps. Quad maps aren't always accurate. It's really frustrating when I have to spend a lot of time orienting myself to a map, especially one that's not accurate.
After whining a bit about maps, it's sort of ironic that all I've done today was put together a map. I had to transfer information from six sets of quad maps to another set of quad maps. After a while all the lines look the same. We'll see if the information I was given to map is accurate on the ground. I'll actually get to go out and hike a lot of the areas on this map.
Can you read a quad map? Or how about just a county or city map? Perhaps you'll never need to. If you can, can your spouse? What if you just happen to take the family on a camping trip and go a little too far off the main road? Will you get lost or will you be able to figure out where you've been?
It could be something simple, like Saturday after the game. We got out of the parking lot and the traffic wouldn't allow us to go the same way we came in. The way the roads were closed we had to go three miles out of the way in order to get back to the freeway. There weren't any signs that really directed me since I wasn't familiar with the area. A street name meant nothing. The roads sent us north and east yet I needed to go south and west.
Practice is the only way you will get good at figuring out where you are or remembering where you've been. It's an important skill and could be a matter of life and death.