GPS is incredibly convenient and fairly reliable; however, it isn’t foolproof. Besides the obvious possibility of losing signal while trying to navigate in an area you don’t know there’s also the possibility that you could be sent slightly off course.
There have been plenty of stories of people ending up in precarious situations directly led by GPS. From being led down a flight of stairs into a park to being led directly into a lake, there are enough similar accounts of what can go wrong when we don’t rely on other means of getting to where we want to be. This is when the age-old act of using a map can come in quite handy.
Imagine this, you are on a little highway somewhere in Missouri, west of Illinois, north of Arkansas and heading to Kansas City. Your GPS instructs you to take a left onto an even smaller road that begins as blacktop, then becomes an even smaller dirt road until you slam on the breaks right before the front tires reach the waters edge of a shallow but moving river. The female voice on the GPS repeats, “follow the route.” Obviously, this is not a viable option. So you turn the car around and go back to the little highway where you began hoping she will give you a new way home. Instead, she once again instructs you to turn left back on the road that will once again lead you to the shallow moving river. Yes, this is a personal experience. Thank goodness I had purchased a map at the last stop. Combing the use of the map with the GPS got me home and reminding me of the value of human ingenuity especially when used alongside human created technology.
Beyond ensuring safe travels, recent studies have shown there is an even more important reason to know how to use a map, or even have a general understanding of where you are in respect to north, south, east and west. Spatial mapping is innate to us as humans and a necessary exercise for our brains. If you’ve ever seen an arm or a leg straight out of a cast you were likely shocked at how tiny that arm or leg had become. Simply walking and lifting simple items keeps our muscles intact, having an extremity in a cast for any length of time prevents those muscles from being used, soon all you have is the mass of the bone. The brain works in a similar way. Specific types of critical thinking exercises our brains and keeps our brain muscles strong and healthy. Spatial mapping is one of those necessary exercises. Using a map, memorizing that turning right at the big oak tree gets you to Grandma’s house or turning left past the gas station gets you to church are ways to maintain our spatial mapping abilities.
I was shocked this last spring when my son told me he was making social media posts during a tornado warning to make sure his friends understood that they were in the path of the moving storm. He explained that most of his friends don’t know where they are in terms of where anything else is. If a storm is moving due east at 40 miles per hour and is currently in Kansas City south of I-70, it is likely to hit Independence then Buckner then Levasy and so on. If you don’t understand where you are, you won’t anticipate the storm until the sirens go off. If you don’t understand where you are and your GPS stops working you’ll have nothing to rely on to get you back on tract.
It reminds me of a time years ago a group of our friends decided to explore a large National Forest. Around a mile in someone asked if anyone had a compass. One of our friends pulled a compass from her pocket, however, that was the first time she had looked at it. We had nothing to reference to. Thank goodness another friend had paid attention to the placement of the sun from the point we left the car and walked into the woods.
Yet another story of the benefits of both the new ways and the old. Keep using your GPS technology along with that good old fashioned folded up map in bottom of the glove compartment. Pay attention to what you see outside as you drive. You’ll be less likely to get lost and when you get older, your brain will thank you.
Blog By: Allison Green