I Like (Paper) Maps

Without a paper map, we would never have found the park that had this old barn and long-unused canal and canal boat.

During our recent trip north, our car was stocked with a number of state, city and local maps. And along the way, we collected more.

I prefer paper maps to anything that pops up on my phone or iPad courtesy of Bing, Google, Mapquest or their related ilk.

Call me Ms. Luddite.

What exactly is the attraction to collecting, using and keeping paper maps, anyway? You have to unfold and re-fold them in exactly the same pattern so they: a) fit back into the bag or compartment from whence they came and b) your anal-retentive traveling companion does not get mad at you for “not even knowing how to fold a map.” They have to be constantly replaced so they are up to date, and you have to do the environmentally sensitive thing and recycle the old ones. In this day of i-Everything and Smarter-than-the-owner phones, just putting in the coordinates of where you are and where you want to be makes more sense, right?

What’s missing from the electronic Point-A-to-Point-B directionals is a tactile sense of holding a state, or several states, or a cartoony-looking map of a single city, in your hands. On paper, you get to see a literal big picture: where you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going and what you will be missing (but could do on your next trip), and what all the topographical features look like. A map on your electronic distraction is a small and immediate world. A paper map is something to spread out on the hotel bed, study, discuss and decide amongst the options. An electronic map will get you from place to place fast. A paper map gives you rivers, parks, scenic overlooks, mountains, historic districts, museums and other diversions from your original path. It compels you to say out loud, “I wonder what else we can do while we’re on our way to …?”

And in the land of Murphy’s Law, it always helps to have a paper backup, anyway. You never know when your phone battery will die, or you will lose your Internet signal. Sometimes, having a little old “technology” stashed in the glove compartment can save your trip, or at least give you something to talk about later on at the hotel. And by “talk about later,” I don’t mean arguing about whose map-folding skills suck more.


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Filed under automobiles, technology, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

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