Traveling Without A GPS

I’m traveling with Em.  We’re doing a kind of mother/daughter trip together, though not, as Em would like, to a spa where we sit around getting our nails done, (Em has fallen in love with the joys of a good pedicure) go swimming in heated pools that are like massive bath tubs and doing nothing else… that trip will have to wait.

And I made the mistake of opting out of the GPS system for the car I’ve rented, which means every few minutes Emma can be heard saying from the back seat, “Oh no!  You’re going the wrong way!”  And because I have no sense of direction, am driving in a state I’ve never been before, let alone city, she is correct.  We have been here less than 24 hours and have gotten completely lost, despite thorough directions from google maps (which suck, by the way, I’m totally blaming google maps) FOUR times!  This is not an exaggeration.

It seems I cannot drive more than a few miles without taking a wrong turn, end up inexplicably going in the opposite direction from where I meant and wanted to go.  So I’m like one of those annoying drivers who’s leaning forward, peering out the window, both hands nervously gripping the steering wheel and driving so slowly I’ve got a line of cars in back of me, pissed off and trying to get around me. But I won’t pull over because I don’t know where the hell I am and… Yeah.  That’s me in that car you’re honking at.  And that GPS system that I turned down, because really, at an additional 20 bucks a day or whatever it was, who would think that was a good idea?  Um…  it’s looking like a bargain, right about now…

This was not always the case.  When I was in my late teens and all through my twenties I lived and drove all over the place.  I lived in LA for three years, a city where you spend more money on your car than you do on your home.  So yeah, I’ve driven a lot.  But as I have grown older and my eyes are not as they once were, requiring glasses, my sense of direction (not that I ever had one) has gotten worse, not sure how that’s actually possible…  but it has…  so a GPS system, it turns out, is less an “option” and more a necessity.

But last night when we arrived, I was still thinking of the me that I was thirty years ago.  The me that took on New York City traffic without a second thought, the me that spent hours a day navigating Southern California’s freeway system, the me that drove all over the place, every day without hesitation, yeah, that me.

Turns out?

She’s gone.

Image representing Google Maps as depicted in ...

21 responses to “Traveling Without A GPS

  1. Oh yes, I have *so* been there. 😉 And it’s definitely not your fault — stupid maps!

    I don’t know if a sense of direction helps that much: mine certainly doesn’t. Saying that, I’ve never used a GPS for directions, but then it’s rare I drive anywhere unfamiliar. I do have a record of getting lost and then driving around in what I feel is something like the right direction until I see some sign that I recognize. Sometimes it works, sometimes I end up in the next county! I can’t pull over. Because. Just because…

    I’ve gotten into the habit of rehearsing my route in Google Street View which helps because then I recognize landmarks. I suck badly at map navigation while driving so I have to rely on memory. Which means pictures. I wish Google’s directions included Street View pictures along the route – that would be so helpful.

    • I did see a “street view” on google maps when I was trying to find a place in NYC. But now I can’t find where that option to see the street view is… maybe it only gives that option sometimes. Anyway, I’m not sure it would help me. But it’s good to know I’m not alone. I have no trouble getting out of the car and asking random people for help, though. 🙂

      • My problem is not so much asking for the directions as remembering them. It’s because I don’t get a clear mental picture of the route from their “turn left, turn right…”.

  2. so i remember the study (of london taxicab drivers or some such group) that showed the more they drove, the part of the brain that handles visual-spatial grew (more better neural pathways or connections or what have you). Very scientific-y explanation, right? So if you drive less (which you do now) you haven’t been exercising those muscles. I swear my sense of direction is as good as it is b/c I have maps, instinctively, deep in my brain. It comes from 20+ years of daily driving, all over (city to burbs etc).

    Sorry Google maps was a fail this time, I live by them. Hope the trip will continue more smoothly!

  3. I always say: It isn’t an adventure until you get lost!

  4. yeah, i was going to say the same : enjoy getting lost! =)
    (but be safe on the streets)

  5. I’m going out on a limb here… I don’t know if Emma would enjoy it or if you’d feel comfortable relying on her, but would it be an idea to give her an actual paper map and point where you are and where you want to end up, and let her give you directions (by pointing or agreed signals or text-to-speech device or whatever works for both of you)? I absolutely LOVED sitting in the car with my dad and read maps and work out the most efficient or even most scenic route to get somewhere. By the time I was 12, I was in charge of finding the entire family the next place to put up our tent for the night. Maps were visual, highly stylised forms of travel. I could let my dad handle the actual traffic or roadblocks or indicate that we were lost and then give me a new starting point, while I simply looked at the nice squiggles and lines and street names and gave directions.

    I mean, even if Emma turns out not to be very good at it, you can’t get more lost than you already do, right?

  6. This blog applies to me! Jenn has shared as a guest speaker, that she could write a paper on the places we got lost in and the twist and turns each trip we made, took us! Our GPS is now my very best friend and Jim keeps it updated with the current apps…bless his heart!

  7. This so applies to me. I have ZERO sense of direction, never have, my family has always teased me mercilessly about it. My only saving grace is that living in the Omaha/CB metro all my life, it’s pretty easy to get around…but I still occasionally get lost. At least I’ve never wound up in the middle of a cornfield! 😉

    You forgot to mention where you and Em are traveling too? Oh, how I envy those who get to travel. You’ve been so many places, and done so many things, Ariane….I feel like if we ever sat down to talk we’d probably never stop, I’d be so fascinated listening to you!

    So next time, suck it up and get the GPS – at least you won’t be getting honked at! 🙂

  8. And here is another suggestion, turn it into a positive! Just leave in plenty of time, and turn it into an adventure! And another thing, take a drive sometime to purposely go on a route you have never taken! Actually I love the suggestion that Em be in charge of the map, how empowering and delicious. Reminds me of one of my favorite books…. Riding the Bus with my Sister by Rachel Simon. Have you ever read this?! Hilarious and heartfelt and unflinchingly honest!! Thanks for sharing….

  9. People change that’s life. You sound like my dad on road trips LOL 🙂

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