I'm all for using my smartphone apps now, but I remember how fantastic I thought the portable Garmin GPS Navigator System was when I first bought it many, many years ago. Just plug in my destination, and it gave me turn-by-turn instructions in real time. Miraculous! It was a pain, though, whenever the suction cup gave way, and the entire thing tumbled onto the floor just out of reach on the passenger side. Luckily, I could haul it over to me by grabbing onto the power cord.
Before that, I relied on Mapquest.com whenever we traveled. My road trip folder (an actual, physical folder — not an icon on a screen) would be packed full with printouts of detailed directions to get us to each and every destination. If there was an especially tricky portion, I'd print out a map of that particular intersection. As we drove, I'd look at the odometer and mentally calculate the mileage total for the next turn. Being prone to motion sickness if I was the passenger and not wanting to take my eyes off the road if I was the driver, I'd memorize the entire set of directions before we headed out.
Every now and then, I'd be in the car without my printouts, and I'd have to pull out my roadmap. I remember the horror I felt one day when I realized that, after years of being nearsighted, I had to move the map away from my face in order for the road names to come into focus. Oh, my aging eyes! About a year after that, my husband and I were driving around Houston, the city where both of us grew up, and pulled out a map. Being new to the whole "old eyes" phenomenon, neither of us carried around reading glasses. Much to our dismay, no amount of moving the map closer or further from our eyes made the smallest print readable.
|Navigating by map|
On our trip to England a few months ago, we brought along a road atlas. Looking at an atlas was so much more enlightening than if we had passively relied on a Maps app to tell us where to go.
This Texas gal amused herself by looking at all the quaint British names of the many villages. I marveled at how the towns were densely packed on each page. In comparison, the vast expanse of nothingness in the Salisbury Plain around Stonehenge made me wonder. Was all that emptiness hiding something? Ancient alien landing sites, perhaps? As we drove through the grasslands towards one of England's most iconic landmarks, the answer became apparent. It's the location of a Defence Training Estate.
|On the Salisbury Plain, beware because the tank will always win|
Using a road atlas seemed so retro but a good backup plan in case if we didn't have phone coverage. We started off strong, and used the atlas exclusively. During the four hour drive from York to London, I had to follow the A1 freeway as it snaked its way from page to page. Sometimes, I'd try to look ahead but needed to use my finger to bookmark the page we were actually on.
As it turns out, I'm rather lousy as a navigator. I'm really good at using my memory to return to places that I've visited before, but I tend to use the words "right" and "left" interchangeably. My husband is never quite sure which way he's really supposed to go unless he glances over to wherever my hand is pointing.
Having to read a map in a car is my major downfall. My predisposition for getting carsick while reading is a big hindrance, especially on winding country roads and roundabouts. After about 20 minutes, I'm worthless. My husband would ask where to turn, and I'd just moan "I can't look. I can't look." So, I'd close my eyes while I attempted to overcome the nausea, and next thing I knew, I would nod off to sleep. Then, I'd wake up and have absolutely no idea where we were. I'd look at the village names on the signs we passed and attempt to locate our position on the map.
Once, hubby kicked me into the back seat and brought our then 16-year-old boy up to navigate. He eventually started napping in the passenger seat, too. (I wonder where he gets it from?) Our 13-year-old just barely escaped his chance to guide us through the highways and byways of England. Eventually, we started relying on our iPhones again and used the road atlas as a backup.
I wonder what the next generation of travelers will be like. Will they be able to get around using a traditional map after growing up being able to rely on smartphones to give them real time directions? Would Harry Potter have been able to use the Marauder's Map if there wasn't a dot showing him "You Are Here"? I know that my kids did map reading worksheets when they were in primary school with all the questions of what route to take to get from Point A to Point B. But, it seems most kids don't get much real life exposure to finding their way using a paper map.
My Girl Scout troop would rather run around a campground higgledy-piggledy hoping to randomly come across our cabin. Or else they want to backtrack all the way to the last signpost we passed to figure out which way to go. A few weeks ago, I had to wrangle the troop — all 6th grade (Year 7) kids — into standing still long enough to get their bearings. I pointed out the pavilion where we stood and the tennis courts behind us. I showed them how to turn the map around until the pavilion and the tennis courts on the map were oriented the same way to each other. "Now," I asked them, "which way should we go?" They got it right, so perhaps there is hope for the future after all.
When was the last time you used a paper map?
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