A few weeks ago a few friends and I took a road trip. Without a road map. This was partly because of lack of planning and partly because of stinginess.
You probably think this is some story about how our trip was a disaster and maps are important, and you should take them with you. Actually, quite the opposite: our trip was lovely. I’m not recommending that you don’t take a road map, but I’m saying that it’s possible without one. All you have to do is read the roadsigns and be aware of your surroundings.
We started off with the idea of going to the ocean, which really isn’t too difficult when you’re on the Iberian Peninsula. Go almost any direction and you’re bound to hit it. So from Madrid we just followed signs to Valencia, no problem. But we weren’t ready to stop in Valencia. So we set our sights on a small town north of Valencia called Peñíscola. Here things got a bit more complicated; the town was so small that there were no highway signs leading us there.
Hence the importance of common sense. As long as we had the Mediterranean Sea to the right and the hills of the Iberian System to the left, we couldn’t miss the town, which was situated on the coast. Even if we lost sight of the water, the slope of the land told us where it was. And to drive into the hills meant we were going the wrong way. We did run into a few dead end roads and even had a brief and nerve-wracking conversation with some policemen (we were inappropriately stopped right before the entry to the toll road. Whoops.). Turns out the policemen actually helped us with directions. In the end we made it to our town. And it was so worth it.
This experience reminded me of an article I read in the Times a few months back. It was about how relying on a GPS to get us around actually kind of makes us dumber. When we use GPS systems to navigate, our brains aren’t required to observe and process our surroundings the way using a map does.
It’s funny, this GPS versus no-GPS dilemma is kind of like life (yes, I’m actually going there). I’m not going to say that going map-less is better and you’ll have more adventures and it’s about “the journey not the destination” blah blah blah. It’s just about being aware of your surroundings. When you get too focused on the expectations or the right way of doing things or what other people have done in the past, you forget to simply observe the life around you. You don’t realize that if you just feel the slope of the land beneath your feet it will tell you where to go.
So don’t freak out guys, I think we’ll get there okay. Can’t you see the hills stretching out on our left? Can’t you feel the sea on the right?