Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

May 28, 2012 • Editorials

Lessons Learned from Navigating Without GPS

I have had a dedicated GPS in my car for the last 5 years. I started with a Garmin Streetpilot, and moved on to a Nuvi a few years ago. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t remember how to navigate without a robotic female voice barking angrily at me. But Sarah and I were heading to a wedding, and since she was heading down a few hours ahead of me, and had more stops than me, she borrowed my GPS. Suddenly I had a 2+ hour drive with no bossy instructions … how was I going to survive?

As it turns out, I found it incredibly freeing to drive without GPS navigation. I have Google Maps on my iPhone, but I opted to print out directions instead. I am not a big fan of Google Maps on the iPhone, and my logic was that it would be safer to have a piece of large paper to follow in place of tapping a tiny screen while hurdling down the highway. What struck me was that I was more aware of the road without a GPS yapping away. I was forced to watch for road signs more closely, since I couldn’t rely on electronics to alert me when I was close to my next turn. I noticed more about the towns I was driving through as a result, and I just enjoyed the ride so much more than I expected.

Now, to be fair, there was a detour that required me to briefly follow Google Maps on my iPhone, but aside from that detour I spent the whole trip disconnected from GPS. I have always said that without a Garmin I wouldn’t be able to find my way around the block, but I somehow made it a hundred miles from home to an unfamiliar area without getting lost. At least, not while driving. I did get lost running through the office park next to our hotel, but that’s a whole other story (and seriously, all the buildings looked the same! I lost my landmarks!)

I won’t be retiring my Garmin anytime soon, but this experience made me realize I don’t NEED it all the time. Instead of leaving it up on my dashboard permanently, I think I will keep it locked away in my glove compartment, and only pull it out when it is definitely needed. The truth is, I underestimate my own ability to navigate, and I have let GPS be a crutch, rather than a tool. This experience has given me a chance to change that! Have you found areas where you have leaned too heavily on technology? How did you change that? Let us know your experiences in the comments!


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