GPS is a great tool for getting you where you want to go. It’s all about the destination. Case in point: Make a turn other than it recommends and it will quickly reroute to put you back on track. Try and make a detour (swing by the bank or stop at the grocery store) and it practically has a fit trying to get you to go where you said you wanted to go.
An old-fashioned map, on the other hand, supports such diversions – it suggests and invites them. All those parks and historic towns just off the beaten path, the sites and attractions you never realized are quite where they are – suddenly the place you were trying to get to seems like a boring old dot that can wait a bit, if you’ll even decide to get there at all.
Then there’s the amazing Triptik of AAA lore – the best of both worlds. A personalized highlighted line (there was always a certain thrill in watching the agent mark your path) leading you to where you wanted to go – eventually – but it did so across a series of narrow pages that gave just enough peripheral geographic vision to support the whimsy of meandering and exploration.
Do AAA offices still do that? I suppose the concept is all but obsolete. But here’s what I’d like: To sit down with an agent in the place I’m at right now and explain where I started, nearly 40 years ago and several states away. “Can you draw me a line,” I’d ask, “show me the path that led me to where I am today? I wouldn’t change it for the world – but how on earth did I get here??”