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Is Your GPS Making You Weak?

Most of us use the same routine when we travel somewhere new or unfamiliar. We plug an address into the GPS and follow the directions. It's quick, easy, and, for the most part, effective.

Lately, though, I have begun to wonder: Are we losing something essential when we depend too much on an electronic screen guide us? The answer, I'm convinced, is yes, and here's why:  

A JOURNEY IS MORE THAN A ROUTE

The GPS, for all it remarkable capabilities, only offers a narrow viewpoint with one objective—traveling from point A to point B. A traditional map, on the other hand, opens up the world. It invites us to imagine a landscape, to picture its shapes and landmarks, to feel a sense of wonder.

Child with Map

Like old treasure maps, traditional maps show us possibilities and stir our imagination. We see lakes, back roads, parks, and rivers. The GPS, in contrast, is so hyper-focused on showing us where we are, it fails to inspire us to consider where we'd rather be.

Most importantly, there's nothing to love about a journey guided by a GPS. It leaves no lasting impression, no memories, and no longing to return.

 

THE WORLD ALREADY HAS ENOUGH FOLLOWERS

If we depend too much on a GPS, we become passive and to a certain degree, even helpless. Because a GPS tells us what to do, we become followers rather than thinkers, tourists rather than explorers.

As a result, we don't engage our eyes and mind with a GPS in a way that forms memories, builds knowledge, or kindles curiosity. 

"Because a GPS tells us what to do, we become followers rather than thinkers, tourists rather than explorers."

A traditional map, on the other hand, doesn't tell us where to go. It is decidedly neutral. It provides information that we have to interpret.

As a result, we remain independent and in control. We engage with and process a landscape in a way that forces us to remember landmarks and value our sense of direction.

earth and sky

In turn, we learn to navigate a particular place. We understand where we stand and what it takes to get where we want to go. By extension, we become more capable of navigating a larger world.

THE TAKEAWAY

GPS technology is incredible and there's no denying its value. But we shouldn't abandon our old paper maps, at least not yet. While the GPS is excellent when it comes to showing us the fastest route to a restaurant or a soccer field, it falls far short in a number of fundamental areas.

The adventures of Marco Polo and Magellan were inspired by maps and some of our adventures should be too.

"The adventures of Marco Polo and Magellan were inspired by maps and some of our adventures should be too."

Never forget that electronic devices can fail and batteries can die, but a paper map—as long as you can figure out how to fold the damn thing up—will never let you down. 

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