GPS navigation is great. Over the years, the advancement of GPS technology has saved countless people from getting lost on the vast network of American roadways. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get lost when using GPS, given some of the extremely user-friendly features like real-time voice feedback and turn-by-turn directions.
But in some ways, the classic road map will always be better than electronic GPS navigation. While bulky paper atlases aren’t nearly as convenient as touch screen computers, there’s just something special about finding your way using only a paper map and your own sense of direction.
1. No Batteries Required
GPS navigation systems require batteries or a power outlet. Road maps, on the other hand, only require a good eye and a bookmark. There’s a certain elegance about the simplicity of a road atlas whether you’re a Luddite or not.
2. No Connection Issues
Modern GPS systems are generally very reliable. However, anyone who’s used GPS extensively has probably run into connection issues, leading you down the wrong street or miscalculating that you’re currently across town. With an old-fashioned street map, no satellite connection is required. All you need is a little bit of light and a decent sense of direction.
3. Reading Maps Is Cool
Speaking of having a sense of direction, there’s just something cool about being able to read complex road maps. It’s a skill that has long disappeared amongst a lot of today’s drivers, many of whom would be utterly lost without the voice-guided directions of a computer. While hitting a few buttons on a GPS screen makes navigation far easier, it’s hard to deny the cool nostalgia of stopping at a gas station, slapping a giant road atlas on your hood and figuring out where you are the old-fashioned way.
4. Getting Lost
Getting lost can be fun. With the convenience offered by modern GPS systems, you often lose your desire to explore. Simply type in the kind of food or shopping you’re in the mood for and the GPS tells you exactly where they’re located and how to get there. Using classic road maps, you don’t have this luxury. You can navigate your way to new places, but you have no idea exactly what you’re going to find until you get there. When it comes to visiting a new area, a road map lets you get a little lost so you can explore the streets in person rather than through a touch screen.
5. The Spirit of the Road Trip
It’s true that GPS navigation makes interstate and cross-country trips far easier to plan and less stressful. But that ease and convenience also detracts from the classic spirit of the American road trip. It’s not about getting to your destination as quickly and easily as possible; road trips are equally as defined by what you see along the way. Finding your way across the country using only a road atlas and a pencil to plot your route leaves much more room for adventure than receiving real-time directions from an automated navigator.
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