Theoretically you should be able to stand just about anywhere in the world with a compass in your hand and it will always point north. While that in itself isn't exactly practical, most compasses also come equipped with the means to help you figure out how to go in the direction you want based on its relationship to due north. Many compasses come with two dials; one fixed and one that rotates. As long as you keep north on the moveable dial aligned with the needle pointing in that direction, your readings will always be true and you should never lose your bearings.
Of course if your compass is off in its reading of due north every other reading you make will be the same amount off course and you could find yourself missing your intended target by thousands of miles. You supposedly can confirm the veracity of North by locating the pole star in the sky by drawing a line to it through one side of the constellation "The Big Dipper". History tells us that escaping slaves trying to get to Canada from the United States along the underground railroad used this method of following "the Drinking Gourd" to make it safely North.
I don't know about anybody else but I've never been able to execute even that simplest of navigational tasks using the night sky. I can usually find the Big Dipper easily enough, but tracing a line from it to the North or Pole star seems beyond my abilities. There are just too many damned stars in the sky and as far as I'm concerned they could all be the right one, or none of them are right. I've been able to use a compass with some degree of success in the past, but the reality is without a map or atlas I'm pretty much lost.
In Nicolas Dickner's first novel, Nikolski published by Random House Canada through its Knoff imprint, a compass and maps lead three members of the same family on circuitous routes across Canada and South America, as they search out a place to call home. Each of them have come of age with only one parent, and either through choice or circumstances, isolated in worlds of their own. Their only means of connecting to the world around them has been in how they relate to it through maps, points on the compass, and other tools of cartography.