For the last 18+ years that I have been driving in USA I have never used a GPS. I was gifted a GPS from my employers in 2008 but gave it to someone else.
I have driven in a lot of major cities – Seattle, Vancouver, Quebec, Boston, NY, San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City as well as remote areas like Utah, Arizona, Maine, Vermont and lot of South Florida without ever using any GPS.
Yes, I have got lost in about 10% of the cases – but that has been when – the roads have not been labelled properly especially in Boston.
I was never into gadgets. One of my former employers ( small company of 25 people ) used to give all employee Christmas gifts and for a few successive years
we got iPod ( 2006 ), Kindle, iPad.
I always hated relying on gadgets – more so – because – I was scared to become over reliant on them to the point of extinguishing
my memory and some left over brain power.
This idea of not using the GPS has given me an immense sense of adventure, pleasure sometimes venturing into the unknown and of course
extremely sharp sense of direction – especially a good understanding of where I am and where I need to go to arrive at my destination.
So how do I get directions and drive around. Well here is my story of finding directions and navigating.
Each and every time I have have to go somewhere – when at home / office – I open up Google Maps, get the address and figure out the direction using my
perception of distance and the route that best suits me. I first get an orientation of the place as to where it is located from a Bird’s eye perspective.
Then I slowly drill down and figure out the best Freeway to use to arrive closer to the destination and what other extra streets I have to
maneouvre through to get to my destination. Once I figure out the Freeway and which exit to take, I drill down to the street level and figure out the directions and turns
I have to go through to reach my destination and sort of memorize the image within my brain.
This has worked for me most of the time and previously I used to focus on the destination street and the street names I have to go through with the turns etc to
arrive at the destination street. However, at the start I often used to miss some of the intermediate streets where I have to take the turn – either I was
driving too fast or not focussed.
However, with practise over the years now, I do also make a point to observer/remember ( while studying the maps ) the names of 1 or 2 streets ahead where I have to make the turn,
so that I can slow down appropriately when I approach the turn(s) I have to take.
This mental and driving exercise has fine tuned my spatial orientation as well as my memory to an extent that now I can confidently venture out almost anywhere
without GPS and relying on any navigation device.
However, I am fascinated with 2 things about GPS – how GPS signals can be blocked by GPS Jammers and more importantly – how GPS relies on Einstein’s theory of Relativity to make corrections all the time due to relativistic effects 🙂