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I admit, I have a serious attachment to paper maps. As a kid I kept the ones that came with National Geographic, just because I liked the idea of them. I have a very difficult time parting with useless old maps of places where the roads have surely changed.
For this trip, I decided I’d try using mapping apps on the iPhone, and although it looks like a nifty idea, in practice the maps are much too small, and gps is really great if you know where you’re going, or if you have unlimited data or a free wireless connection. Then there is the issue of familiarity. When darkness is falling and you’re wandering around in a strange place with a low battery, google maps is great in theory, but a paper map looks even better.
My biggest issue with google, MotionX GPS, PDF Maps and all the other iPhone tools is that the maps simply can’t cover enough ground to give me the long view I crave when I don’t know the area I’m in. It’s not that they don’t work, it’s that the screen is so small, the maps can’t offer a larger frame of reference in one glance.
I find i’m really missing this big picture orientation. For instance, I met someone at Hidcote who said they were from Staffordshire. I have no real idea where that is, (but suppose it’s somewhere near Stafford, wherever that is), and this made the person difficult to place mentally. I didn’t know if I should be talking to someone traveling a distance or who lived right next door.
Places around the world seem more connected when you can see the common oceans they share too, and the latitude and longitude. Looking at a small grid on my iPhone makes me seem completely isolated and cut off. I never feel this way with an ungainly paper map that might take three days to refold.
I’ve made a note to buy myself a fold up map of the UK, with the regions listed, so I can whip it out and place all the interesting, friendly people I meet. Perhaps I will even start putting a mark on the map to show me where all these new acquaintances live. I’ve never thought of doing this before now. I could do this with a saved google map, but then, I’d be in the same small disconnected situation I’m in now.
Atmosphere enters into the map issue too. There’s a huge difference in a place’s ambience when you spread your paper map out on a stone wall, look at the view, and tear off a hunk of local cheddar while contemplating where you made that wrong turn.