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The Map Of Life?

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‘I can’t get there because I don’t have a sat nav…’  was the response I got this week when I  told someone  where a venue was. Gritting my teeth I calmly explained that as far as I was aware for several thousands years people have been finding their way around the world without having to input a postcode and wait for a disembodied voice to guide them.  Now this may just be that I have a long term obsession  with maps and I  can and do spend hours ‘reading’ an atlas, I know I am not alone in this.. I have other  map geek friends.. you know who you are…

There is something truly magical for me in looking at a map,  and as my friends know  well,  I am never happier than when planning routes for any mode of transport.  I cannot bear not to know where I am and what is around me ,  I  love to  know and understand how the area has evolved . When you look at old maps they tell the story of history, politics and social change. My Dad trained as a navigator and topographer in the war and taught me to read a map at a young age so maybe that is where it comes from.  Though not a geographer I can still remember the absolute magic of seeing contour lines on a map turn into a two-dimensional representation of the landscape. I expect they do it on computer now and its  in 3D.

Don’t get me wrong I am not opposed to Sat Navs, I use map apps and google directions all the time,  what really upset me was the realisation that  for some,  technology  is not a  tool to enhance life  but  a substitute for thought. As a result  horizons could be  limited  due to lack of  a piece of plastic with a micro chip to show them the way.

The Vikings, Columbus and great explorers and those fabulous cartographers that went forth to get the information  which opened up the world didn’t say..’can’t go because no one can tell us the way’ .

When you  work out a route on a map you look at the whole picture, you can go the long way round, take a short cut, take the scenic route, take the high road or the low road – you can in the words  of  Fleetwood Mac ‘Go Your Own Way’ – you have the control and make the decisions, right or wrong, taking responsibility for your actions, just as we do in life.

Maps show how our world has changed and expanded.  How sad would it be if we stopped  exploring  and seeking out new places and experiences because we  no longer decide for ourselves how to get from A to B but rely on technology to make the decision for us. After all where does the information in the Sat Nav come from…. that’s right … A Map!


About anneinmid

Ageing optimist still trying to make sense of life. New to blogging.

2 responses »

  1. That’s amazing! I was asked once a few years ago how I would find my way up to Crooklands near Kendal to join my parents in a caravan. I told her I looked at a map and then drove there!

    I don’t have a sat nav. I do think it would be useful for going to strange cities and towns where making a mistake would be very confusing with one way systems and fast traffic but I generally love looking at the map to find a nice or fast way of getting to my destination and I have managed to get myself from Cheshire to Wooller in Northumberland, Mildenhall and all sorts of odd places for my cycling weekends. However being a cyclist involves looking at a map and that can be very addictive.

    My dad was also a navigator in Lancasters during WW2 so he taught me a lot about map reading and navigation. Together with the cycling, it helped to give me my enjoyment of Geography and map reading. Nice to find a kindred spirit.

    I’ve just returned from a gale-ridden, sopping weekend at York Cycle Show, where York has been flooded again. It will be a joy to sleep in a bed rather than a tent just hanging on with a few tent pegs and sleeping on a Tempur mattres rather than a sleeping mat.

  2. Mmmmm, me thinks you are a technophobe. Although I will concede getting from A-B using a map and compass is very satisfying.


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