These days, you do it without a second thought — you pull out your phone to open a GPS app to help you get where you're going. It doesn't matter if you're in a foreign country or your own city, using a GPS is an almost-daily action for many people. Using a GPS or a similar app certainly has benefits; you’re sure to get where you’re going, and the step-by-step directions mean you don’t have to think about the journey at all. But does that defeat the whole purpose of traveling? Here are a few reasons you should consider turning off the GPS when you travel.
Engage with the Locals
Remember the days when you had to pull the car over and ask for directions if you were lost? It might seem like lightyears ago, but we think it’s time to bring this trend back. It’s a fantastic way to meet locals and strike up a conversation. You may learn more about the area you're visiting, getting the inside scoop on shortcuts and local gems. Maybe there's a better coffee shop around the corner or a bus line that will get you to your destination faster.
Hone Your Navigation Skills
Navigation isn’t like riding a bike — you won’t be able to jump on and keep going no matter how much time has passed. Instead, research has proven that drivers who follow satellite navigation instructions have more trouble figuring out where they’ve been than drivers who use maps. GPS fans also can’t tell when they’ve been directed to go past the same point twice; that’s why rescue teams regularly have to go out in search of people who didn’t charge their phone and then couldn’t figure out where they were going. When you stop using your GPS and start figuring things out for yourself, it will become much easier to tell where you’re going.
Another benefit of navigating yourself is you'll better get to know the area in which you're staying. By the end of the trip you might even feel like a local, knowing which streets to turn down and how to get to and from your new favorite coffee shop.
Paying too much attention to your GPS while driving can cause you to be distracted and might result in a traffic accident. And over-dependence on a GPS system can dull your logic and common sense. Many people follow the instructions from their GPS no matter what, even to the point of going into an area that’s clearly unsafe. If you’re walking around a foreign city and navigating on your own, however, you’ll be much more aware of your surroundings. So if you start veering into an unsafe area, you'll be better able to back track and find a new way.
Discover a Hidden Gem
Think back to your favorite vacations over the years. What was your favorite activity on those trips? For most people, it's probably not the preplanned tour or carefully structured activity — instead, it was likely something spontaneous and unexpected, like the restaurant you saw on the side of the road and tried on a whim.
Often, spontaneity makes for the best adventures. There’s actually science to back this up: Scheduling your free time can cause anxiety instead of helping you relax, because you’re essentially just creating yet another to-do list for yourself. So if you find a random attraction by the side of the road and decide to stop in, you’ll most likely enjoy it more. Mapping yourself to and from a destination leaves little room to deviate and discover something new. And isn't that what travel is all about in the first place?
Take a Detour
Even the most thorough Internet search might not clue you into every mountain overlook or hidden swimming hole. Driving through a new area and taking a wrong turn could actually result in a beautiful view that isn't splashed all over Instagram.
The next time you go on vacation, resist the urge to use your GPS. (In fact, consider turning off your phone all together — there are lots of benefits to that, too.) Maybe not all who wander are lost. But it’s certainly okay if you are.