Is the age of opening up a map to figure out where you are a thing of the past? According to a recent post on Bad Latitude, they’re one of ten travel items that are now obsolete.
There’s no doubt that technology such as Google Maps and GPS have advantages over traditional maps, but a good, old-fashioned fold-out map will always be an important part of a real traveler’s kit. Here’s why.
As I’m planning my trip to Ethiopia I’ve been studying a 1:2500000 scale map from Cartographia that measures 65×85 cm, or 26×33 inches. Try getting that field of view from a computer screen or mobile phone! Seeing the country as a whole with all its details in one view gives you a better perspective. You begin to notice things.
For example, why does Ethiopia have that big spike for an eastern border? My map shows a string of oases all the way up to the eastern point of the frontier with Somalia, drawn in blue like a series of water droplets on the tan and pale green backdrop of desert and scrub land. A network of caravan routes crisscrosses the space between them. That’s why Ethiopia holds onto a region with a majority Somali population. The caravan routes are of no interest to someone in a car, so you won’t find them on the GPS. My fold-out map also shows the habitats of important wildlife and even the shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
Fold-out maps give you a deeper understanding of the country and are things of beauty. They also have the advantage that they still work if the power goes out or if you lose the signal, a common occurrence in some of the places I go, and they’re far less likely to get stolen.
There’s no doubt that GPS, Mapquest, and Google Maps are efficient ways to get you from Point A to Point B, but real travel isn’t about getting from Point A to Point B.
And that’s a fact no amount of technology will ever change.