Commentary

A Sense of Direction

I’ve always had sort of mixed feelings about buying a GPS. My initial thought was, “why should I spend hundreds of dollars on a GPS when I can just look up directions ahead of time for free?” I’m still a strong proponent of just getting directions in advance, either by asking someone who knows how to get to the location you’re heading to, or using Google maps or MapQuest. It seems like a lot of people have become so dependent on their GPS that they can’t manage to make a simple trip to the grocery store without it.

I’ve always considered myself to have a pretty good sense of direction so I never really saw the point of buying a GPS. Whenever I’m going somewhere I’m not familiar with, I usually just print off directions ahead of time, and on the rare occasion that I miss a turn or something, I’ve always been able to figure out how to get there despite my mistake.

My sister bought a GPS a couple years ago though, and I borrowed it a few times this summer when I was traveling a bit more than usual. I will admit, it was kind of nice to not have to watch the exit numbers quite as closely, and to know ahead of time which lane to stay in. But I also had experiences when the GPS took me a route that wasn’t in a good part of town or had heavy traffic that time of day, and had I asked a friend for directions instead, they would’ve suggested a different way that would’ve taken about the same amount of time.

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I’m going to be moving out to California next summer for a three month long internship, and before I head out there, I’m definitely going to be investing in a GPS. However, I still don’t like the idea of relying on it as my primary source of directions. I’ll probably still try to get directions ahead of time whenever possible, but especially since I’ll be living in an unfamiliar area and may not have too many friends out there at first, I like the idea of having a GPS as a back-up in case I do get lost or plans change and I need to go somewhere without time to get directions ahead of time.

…Now I just have to decide on which GPS to buy!

1 comment about "A Sense of Direction".
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  1. Tom Hespos from Underscore Marketing LLC, December 6, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.

    I'm in the minority of folks who likes portable GPS devices. My Garmin sits in my truck most of the time, but when I'm traveling it comes with me for the rental car.

    I can't be bothered to pre-print directions ahead of time. It's usually a waste of time and paper. With a portable GPS, you can just get in the car and go.

    I have been taken on strange routes from time to time, but I find that gets better if you regularly update your device and its maps. On a long trip to Maine that took me 12.5 hours with an Atlas once, I got there in just under 9 hours following the GPS-recommended route.

    I've also taken to cruising with the map always on when I'm driving around town. It's great for discovering new things about the minor roads in the area around my house. "Oh, this road connects with that road? I never knew that..." It's also good for settling arguments - my wife tends to drive around the neighborhood by cutting through residential neighborhoods, while I prefer to stick to major highways. She's always telling me about how much time and distance she saves by using "the back roads." The time argument is an easy one - if we leave from the same place and are heading to the same spot, I almost always beat her. The distance argument? You can show the data. She'll spend 20 minutes on 30MPH limit roads, stopping at stop signs and I'll spend 15 minutes going a bit out of the way, but staying on routes that are 55MPH limit roads and have few traffic lights. (Plus, I don't have to worry about kids darting out into the street, cars coming out of driveways, etc.)

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