Though we live in an age where smartphones make it possible to have electronic maps right at our fingertips, many of us continue to rely on paper maps to get us places.
I witnessed the perfect example of this while traveling with my family over the summer.
A road trip to Charleston with my parents found me in the seat behind the driver holding a giant book of US state maps, helping my dad navigate the long stretches of Interstate between New York and South Carolina. My mom was in charge of the “Google Maps”, which were actually a single sheet of looseleaf paper with my dad’s handwritten notes scrawled all over it. On the back was an estimate of how long it would take to get there. To complete the look, we also had a Mapquest printout on which my cousin, whom we were visiting, had neatly written important landmarks, Interstate and highway exits, and other important things to look for as we got closer to his house.
Not once during the whole trip did we pick up our phones to plug the address in – we didn’t need to. We trusted that everything we needed was spelled out on the printouts in front of us, and we didn’t have to worry about encountering these mapping fails.
The great thing about our paper maps, and one of the reasons that people like my parents and I continue to rely on them, is that they allowed us to relax and enjoy the ride. We didn’t have to worry about maxing out cellular data or scrambling for the phone charger when the app inevitably eats up battery life. In fact, I spent most of that ride with my phone off, save for a few tweets and the occasional text to reassure family and friends we hadn’t been swept away by Hurricane Hermine.
Our paper maps also opened up an entirely new set of opportunities and discovery for us: noticing cities and landmarks that we didn’t realize were so close together inspired plans for future road trips. Those conversations would have never happened if we were restricted to the small screens on our phones.
My family will continue to rely on paper maps no matter where the smartphone age takes us, and I’m sure we’re not alone.
What’s your favorite vacation that you mapped out using print? I’d love to hear about it – comment below or tell us in a tweet!