*Happy birthday V, I love ye’ more than there are words, and this world would be a bore without you. “We can climb a mountain…”
I don’t remember exactly when it happened. It was definitely subtle and not all at once. I thought that I was cool and smart enough to break the cycle of every generation before me, but alas, and without question, I too have become a technology hating geezer.
I used to make fun of these people, the parents and the grandparents and all of their peers who scoffed at all of my new gadgets and do-dads. Why would someone want to mock the growth of the internet? Or cell phones? Or devices to play my music on? (music that they would never understand anyways because their obviously all too old and clueless). But without fail we inevitably become our parents, and their parents before, and so on and so on, evolving each generation ever so slightly, just enough so that we might say we are a little smarter than the generation before. But is technology making us smarter? Are all of these little doohickeys which are meant to make our life easier, making life easy to the point that it takes little to no effort? Is everything that’s being done for us by our thingamajigs making everything that we learn now obsolete for the next generation to come? This all came to a head on the day that my (then) 25-year-old sister told me that she didn’t know how to read a map.
“Wait…what?” I looked over at her with the perfect combo of both suspicion and judgment written all over my face. “I don’t need to, I just always use my phone.” She said in the way that 60% of the time will get us into a fight, EVERY TIME. “Yes but you need to know how to read a map, especially since you love to travel.” Again with the judging tone. “Nah, I’m good…” she said provokingly casual. I wanted to slap her. Fortunately the fact that I was driving kept me restrained from physically assaulting her, not to mention that she could easily kick my ass. I couldn’t understand how a smart, independent, woman in her 20’s could not know how to use a map! I went on and on, asking her questions and thinking up different scenarios, “What if your phone dies? What if you lose the signal? What if you get mugged? WHAT IF THERE’S AN APOCALYPTIC METEOR SHOWER AND ALL OF THE SATELLITES GET KNOCKED OUT OF THE SKY!?” Nothing. My sister has a special way of being infuriatingly nonchalant when you’re really trying to get her to care about something.
Finally we had to stop for gas (we were about 2 days in to one of our week-long road trips). I grabbed the atlas from the back seat and opened it up to Arizona. I knew that she had no interest in learning but I also knew that because I was the driver I had the upper-hand. Not to mention that the big-sister instinct in me was not going to let my young, globetrotting sibling continue to roam this earth without knowing how to use one of the most essential survival tools for an adventurer. “See, we just passed this town, so we’re probably about right here” I traced our path with my shaky, overly caffeinated finger, “Las Vegas is here, so you look at the little scale to see about how many miles that looks like, and you just follow the roads until we get there!” She looked back at me with a face that said I couldn’t care less, and I hate you. “Okay, so just hold on to that and you can help me navigate,” I said to her setting the atlas on her lap, proud that I had just taught her this invaluable life lesson. She glared at me, “But you have our directions printed out from MapQuest...and Myscenicdrives*… and our GPS is working fine.” I felt like a mother must feel when her teenager acts like everything she says is ‘totally annoying…gawd.‘ “Whatever, just humor me.” I hissed.
We got back on the road and after a while, somewhere between my 19th coffee and us singing along to Doggystyle, my sister must have gotten bored because she actually started to pay attention to the map. “Oh I see, there are signs for Lake Mead, and here’s Lake Mead on the map, oooohhh, I get it.” she squinted at the sign and pointed at the map. Eureka!! I had taught my cranky ass, premenstrual sister something and it actually sank in!
Yes, I will admit, I am a planning nazi. I do overly compensate for the fact that I was such a disorganized fuck up through most of my 20’s, and I really shouldn’t take that out on my loved ones when we travel together, my bad. And don’t get me wrong, I love my lap-top, my cellphone, my Ipod, and all of these little gadgets that definitely make my life easier from day to day. But just because these devices are meant to make our lives easier, doesn’t mean that they should replace books, and face to face conversations, and hand-written letters, and all of the tangible information that you can actually hold in your hands. Since that road trip with my sister I have noticed and spoke with more and more young adults who have no idea how to use a map and feel like they never will have to, they even had a Mythbusters about it! I do love GPS, and I use it often whenever I’m traveling in the United States, but I cannot tell you how many times that E and I have been in a different country, in the middle of nowhere with only a map to guide us and we have never gotten lost (not significantly at least). Carrying a map and knowing how to use it is still, and will always be, invaluable to anyone, especially those who have the travel bug. So go ahead and get lost, it’s part of the adventure, just make sure that you bring a map and you know how to use it.
* I highly recommend using the website and the app. myscenicdrives.com. I have used it for every major road-trip that I’ve taken (within the U.S.) and it has never steered me wrong. The website makes it easy to plan and revise your route, find scenic routes and points of interest, find places to stay and get gas, and much more. The website is simple to use and it lets you create and save each trip for future use, which also comes in very handy if you’re undecided about exactly where you want to go.