I love my technology as much as the next girl, whether it be my phone, mp3 or camera it’s in my pocket ready to use each day. It helps us to wake up in the morning, make memories and communicate, what’s not to love? When travelling, technology can become even more useful. For instance, checking my bank balance online, skyping friends and family and most importantly, Google Maps!
Out on the road Google Maps has been my best friend. In a completely new country, navigating unknown streets whilst driving on the opposite side of the road is hard. So, having maps at the touch of a button is incredibly convenient. When driving by myself having the GPS voice guide me has been hugely beneficial. You’ll never be lost with a GPS signal and a phone in your pocket. Take a wrong turn and the computer will easily redirect you without having to turn a map in ten different directions.
Despite my love for paper maps that I frequently pick up from tourist’s offices (mostly for crafting!), they are becoming obsolete thanks to online versions. Paper maps are difficult to read and orientate quickly and heaven knows they are impossible to fold back into their original neat packet! Furthermore, they are an additional thing to carry. My high school geography teacher would be outraged at these comments, he once spent an entire lesson ranting about how young people don’t appreciate maps and how he himself ‘Loved reading maps!’ and this was before Google Maps were mainstream.
While there are hundreds of reasons to use digital maps over paper versions, this week I have been wondering, is Google Maps making me less adventurous? However convenient online maps can be I can’t help but think they may be hindering my exploring. You pick a destination, type it in and press go. Easy-peasy! What more could you want? It will tell you the quickest and most convenient way to go. It will tell you that there are tolls roads, construction blocking the way and even whether there will be heavy traffic. They have the most up-to-date information at the touch of a button.
What is won’t tell you is that there is a great diner just 2 minutes off the highway or a fantastic hike to a waterfall if you take the back road. I would love to see a ‘most scenic’ or ‘most interesting’ route button next to the ‘fastest’ route button. I know we are all eager to get from A to B as quickly as possible but sometimes it would be nice to take my time and enjoy what the world has to offer.
This week I have been on the road with Matt and his parents, driving around Nova Scotia for two weeks. They like to travel without a definite destination and going where the wind takes them. As a planner I was a little apprehensive about travelling like this. I like to research before we go so I don’t miss anything. More than likely, I won’t be in this part of the world again so I’m going to make sure I see and do everything I possibly can. Instead, these past two weeks I’ve explored a little differently. We booked accommodation, so we knew where we would be sleeping each night, but other than that I didn’t have too much planned.
Nova Scotia this time of year can be a little tricky to navigate as a tourist. Spring brings changeable weather (we had snow, torrential rain, 70mph winds and sunshine), for the most part attractions are still closed for the season and many hiking trails are still buried under 2-3ft of snow. I began to wonder what on earth we were going to do for the fortnight. They had travelled all this way to see us and I wanted to show them all the beauty Canada has to offer.
However, by getting in the car with just a final destination has proven to be extremely fruitful. Each day we would set off knowing only our end point and maybe a hike or two in between point A and B. This left plenty of time for adventurous detours. For example, when we arrived at a trail head that was too buried in snow for us to tackle we would simply get back in the car and pick a spot on the map to hit next. On our way from Cheticamp (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) to Ingonish Beach (also Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) we were driving through snow, on roads that were badly damaged by the cold winter weather (potholes are deep and plentiful in Nova Scotia!), we initially thought about heading to Meat Cove at the most northern tip of the island, but due to the conditions we had to change route.
But where to go? Matt’s Mum whipped out her road map and selected Dingwall. We had no idea what would be there, if anything at all. I had my tablet with Google Maps in my lap and was apprehensive about what we were heading towards, it looked like a fishing harbour with a few residential streets… nothing too exciting. But I wasn’t going to argue with the future mother-in-law too much! And whilst a harbour was exactly what we found it was extremely quaint and beautiful. The water was full of ice that was flowing and moving with the waves. The harbour was scattered with lobster pots, brightly coloured buoys and ropes, it was the quintessential maritime scene that was made even more beautiful by falling fluffy snow and a baby sea otter.
Had it been just Matt and I, I’m 99% sure we wouldn’t have ventured here. I would have been deterred by the lack of amenities and dead-end road that Google Maps presented. I would have carried on searching for a place on the digital map that would have showed me something more, at the very least a Tim Hortons! For all its uses Google maps can’t show us everything. It can’t show me what places are going to look like beyond street view, which is just one snap shot of a neighbourhood. It can’t show me ice flows or wildlife. It can’t show me beauty.
As Matt and I head back across to Alberta over the next month or so, I am going to try and develop my free-wheeling travel skills. I won’t give up researching or Google Maps completely, but I will endeavour to be less rigid in our plans. Sometimes the best moments are the unexpected ones, so I must give myself the opportunity have these surprising experiences. Getting lost every now and again may be just the adventure you need!
Do you think Google maps makes you less adventurous? Have you found any hidden gems after detouring from your planned route? Drop me a comment about your adventure… Happy Travels!