paper maps…

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a woman holding a paper map
Photo by cottonbro on

It is hard to believe that very few people know how to read paper maps. With the silly directions from Google and other GPS systems that take people straight through lakes, off boat ramps, and onto airplane runways, you’d think that people would use either common sense, or use a paper map as a backup to confirm directions.

Personal experiences…

On one particularly funny family drive, my oldest daughter insisted on using her GPS maps for directions. We’d been to this particular place quite a number of times, but we hadn’t been there in years. So we needed a refresher.

We were definitely refreshed. 45 minutes out of our way on roads we’d never seen before.

In another incident, a fellow coworker and I were headed to a manufacturing plant to watch the production of a product our company sold. As the GPS was taking us down a road, I looked over to the left.

“Hey, isn’t that where we are supposed to be?” as we were whizzing past the plant. Brakes screeched and we turned in the driveway.

“Huh,” was the response. “The GPS was going to take us down the road another mile or so and have me make a u-turn.”

That’s really why I don’t rely on those electronic devices very much. Usually, using a combination for details on the directions from at least two different electronic map sites and directions off a hard copy map, I can get where I need to go without issue.

Can you read it?

Most people today cannot even read a paper map. They look at the very same squiggly lines on a GPS map in their car, but because it has a little arrow showing where they are on the road, they completely disassociate those road symbols with the very same ones on paper. And are often so distracted from where they are actually at, they miss what is around them.

Maps are not hard to read. Parks often give out paper maps to show what the trails look like. They give little colored symbols both on the trees and the map so that the hiker can figure out where they are.

Road maps do the same thing. Only instead of colored squares painted on the bark of trees, they use road signs with numbers in them that match the ones on the printed map.

The symbols around those numbers show what type of road it is. Is it a highway? A county road? A state route?


GPS really hasn’t been around that long. It was introduced in 1999 to the public. But it was sorely inaccurate and required manual updates instead of instant connection to current satellite geotracking and road conditions that we have today.

But using them really isn’t that simple. They require a bit of technical skill to key in the exact destination. And if something is misspelled or typed in incorrectly, you can end up in a completely different country!

They also track you. If you don’t care, that’s not an issue. But with the governmental and private geotracking for both advertising and nefarious reasons, using them is something that has caused many to think twice about their intrusiveness into their private lives.

And they are hackable. In the United States, the government has failed to build a terrestrial backup of the system. Satellites are vulnerable to hacking. It only takes one mistake, purposeful or otherwise, to cause the entire satellite infrastructure to fail. Including cell phone and financial transactions, and supply chain distruptions.

Paper Maps…

These printed maps are simple. Once you realize you actually use printed maps more than you think, you’ll find that it’s actually more fun figuring out how to get somewhere without technology. What is printed rarely has any of the above listed vulnerabilities.

“It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within–not without.” ~ Poirot”

– Agatha Christie

And it engages the intellect.

Instead of becoming slothful by using technology to direct your journey, you must use the “little gray cells” (as Hercule Poirot would say) to reach your destination.

Remember the park maps? How about maps that show where trains, ferries, buses, or subways go? You are surrounded by printed maps and don’t even realize it!

Try using one. A simple one. Like a map for your city, or even block. See if you can start learning how to find your way around, or even finding parks and recreation you’ve always wanted to try.

It’s really not as hard as you think!

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