Road tripping without using any GPS system taught me a lot about myself

When you really think about it, the idea of ​​going on a weekend road trip without a GPS system to guide you isn't that radical. After all, this was the norm just 15 years ago, before GPS systems were built into every smartphone and most new vehicles on the market. However, in 2019, traveling without Siri guiding you to your destination is almost unheard of. However, after taking a weekend road trip with two friends (during which I decided not to use the help of any apps), I can confidently say that taking a road trip without the help of a GPS system taught me how to navigate better than myself Enjoy traveling more having done this – even if I did get lost a few times.

During my previous vacations to new cities and countries, I often had my eyes glued to my iPhone's Google Maps app as I walked in whatever direction I needed to go. Not only was this very battery draining for my phone, but I also realized it was preventing me from truly getting to know a city. When you have a phone that tells you exactly where you want to go, why should you pay attention to anything other than when Siri says to turn right and left?

My luggage + departure envelope - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

So on a recent road trip I planned with two good friends, I decided to change things up. I try not to use the GPS system on my iPhone X and just rely on paper maps and directions that I print out before departure. (For the record, when I told my friends about my plans, the reaction I got from them was one of pure horror: one of them just chatted with me "Oh no." As a result, I reluctantly agreed to let one of mine Friends using their phones If I got seriously lost while driving, the GPS could guide us during the trip, but only as a last resort) Anyway, it suited the trip we had planned: My friend and I decided to do a road trip with Pack. travel. Up + Go, a travel company, plans vacations for people based on surveys they fill out. With questions covering everything from your favorite restaurant ambience to places you've already visited, they're designed to help the Pack Up + Go team create the perfect vacation experience for you.

The draw, though, is that the company has a surprise for participants before the day of departure - destination information, as well as descriptions of planned activities, restaurant reservations and hotel details are hidden in an envelope that you can Find your destination. We intend to be open before you depart for your trip. In other words, if you're a spoiler-loving person (hello, it's me, the girl who reads the last page of a book before the first), you're going to get a little impatient in the weeks leading up to your trip . I had to stop myself from peeking multiple times.

The morning of our trip, when we opened our “Pack + Go” envelope, we discovered that we were going to Newport, Rhode Island, for the weekend. This beach town was just three hours northeast of New York City, but it was still a completely different world than what my friends and I were used to, and one I was eager to explore.

Ford EcoSport - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

Ford EcoSport - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

As the envelope detailed, we were driving the three hours from New York to Newport, Rhode Island, in a 2018 Ford EcoSport that Ford Motor Company generously loaned us for the weekend—the car’s The color was a deep blue and I was sure we would have been spotted miles away if we had gotten seriously lost. (While transportation costs such as air and train tickets are always included in Pack Up + Go itineraries, car rental is not included - so if you want your surprise trip to take place on the road, make sure you have a car or make other arrangements for rent). The contents of the envelope also detailed that we would be staying at a bed and breakfast in Newport called the Viking Hotel.

So, plan in hand, we set off - over the course of three days without GPS navigation, I gradually discovered that relying on actual maps was more difficult, but totally worth it. Here's what I learned:

1. Taking a road trip without a GPS system doesn’t mean less planning—quite the opposite

Newport, Rhode Island - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

My first class hit me hard very quickly. Like, within the first five minutes. Starting from the Bustle office in downtown New York City, my friends and I planned a few stops on our way to and from Newport over the weekend. As we were leaving on Friday night, we decided to take a detour for dinner, settling on Washington Prime in the small town of South Norwalk, Connecticut—180 miles between New York City and Newport. The drive is about 50 miles. , so this sounds like an ideal time to stop and do some beauty and exploration. Then, on Sunday night, as we drove back to New York from Newport, we planned to visit Providence, Rhode Island (which I was super excited to check out after finding out it was the hometown of Pauly D from Jersey Shore , and he once called it "the Jersey Shore of Rhode Island.") and Mystic, Connecticut (which I was also super excited to check out because of the Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza ).

Now, this would all be fine - if I hadn't realized that shortly after we got into our EcoSport, I made a huge mistake when printing the directions from Bustle's New York office to Newport, and completely ignored it Our route was planned to include a stop in South Norwalk, Connecticut. Even if I did use printed directions to take us down the highway out of New York City, I had no idea how to get us to our restaurant of choice for the night, which was only the Viking Hotel. Great start .

Hotel Viking, Newport, Rhode Island - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

Unfortunately, before we started our road trip, we had to use our fail-safe device - the GPS on my friend's iPhone. “So, how are you going to write about this in your article?” my friend asked me sarcastically as he pulled out his phone and started directing me to the correct highway.

While I wanted to try this experiment in order to be more present when traveling and make the trip go the way I wanted, it turns out that not using a GPS system actually means your plans need to be more rigorous unless you have access to accurate paper road map. Best plan indeed.

2. I have to memorize directions before driving because it’s really hard to look at a piece of paper while trying to operate a moving vehicle

Me and two of my friends - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

This is something I didn't really expect before we left, but in retrospect, it probably should have been obvious. We don't text while driving because it's dangerous to ourselves and others on the road - trying to read a paper map is the exact same thing. Anything that takes your eyes off the road is unsafe, so if you're traveling alone without a GPS, you'll want to make sure you have a vague idea of ​​where you're going before you actually start driving. Before this experiment, I never realized how important Siri was as a co-pilot, and honestly, I wanted to apologize to her for taking her role on my road trip for granted.

Sorry, Siri. You can choose a playlist for your next road trip.

3. The best way to really understand the layout of a town without using a GPS

Newport, Rhode Island - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

Newport, Rhode Island - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

Despite the initial troubles, we eventually made it to Newport – and it was just as beautiful as the photos on Google Images promised. As a Californian, I have always been fascinated by New England beach towns. The contrast between the foggy, cold climate and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean can only be described as poetic. But, like any new town, you need time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings - and when you're only there for a day, there's even more pressure to familiarize yourself so you don't waste time getting lost.

We arrived in Newport on Friday night, it was already dark and the town was illuminated by moonlight, making it so dim that it was impossible to really remember everything around you. Newport isn't just a beach town, it's also a mansion town: One of the biggest draws to traveling to this New England seaside paradise is visiting the famous luxury mansions that line its suburban streets. As I look forward to visiting the mansions—especially The Breakers, the 1800s mansion that belonged to the Vanderbilt family—they all look the same in the silvery moonlight.

Tanya Gahremani/Hustle

However, in the bright light of day, any intricate architecture I missed at night was clearly visible. Architecturally, the town is an absolute masterpiece - and as we drove away from the hotel the next morning and started exploring, I realized that this was suddenly my only focus (besides not crashing). Paying attention to the details of every notable building I drove past helped me a lot to really remember where we had been and thus get an idea of ​​the layout of the town without having an actual map in front of me.

4. I suddenly realized how many Starbucks stores I drove past

A Starbucks in Newport, Rhode Island - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

Okay okay. Yes, I focused on the details of the buildings around me...but I also found myself unconsciously noticing as we walked past a Starbucks store. You can't blame me: There are countless Starbucks locations across the country, and towns like Newport, Providence and Mystic are no exception. As someone who needs a tall iced coffee every morning to survive, the green Starbucks logo easily catches my eye—so as we drove around and explored each town, each Starbucks location became a place I could easily Something to remember. It also helps that Newport is a quintessential New England beach town, complete with lighthouse and all: even the Starbucks store is housed in a gorgeous waterfront building that's impossible to miss.

I'm not saying this will work for everyone - maybe you're less of a Starbucks fan and more of a McDonald's guy - but find something memorable that will keep you engaged when exploring any new city, with or without one You can concentrate on remembering these things. GPS, definitely helps. Think of it as a modern version of astrology: No matter where you are, if you recognize a Starbucks, you have a better chance of figuring out where you are.

5. Wrong turns happen, and that’s okay

Mystic, Conn. - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

Okay, I admit it: By the end of my second day in Newport, I was getting pretty cocky. My Starbucks method worked so well that I managed to drive us everywhere from the hotel, from the Newport Cliff Walk to the city to the harbor, without even looking at my paper route. Obviously, I know this city—right?

So after our last dinner in Newport, we piled into the car and I posed a challenge to my traveling companions: I was going to get us back to the hotel without looking at a map. My friends were allowed to check their phones and tell me if I was off course, but other than that, there were no prompts. So, I pulled out of the parking space and confidently turned right at the first traffic light we saw.

Twenty minutes later, I admitted that I probably should have taken a left, but that somehow led us outside the city limits. But hey, these things happen - and while I didn't expect it to happen at the time, especially since I wanted to show off, it was inevitable that we would get lost at least once during this experiment.

Coincidentally, the chaos ended up being a blessing in disguise: As we drove out of Newport the next day, the direction I needed to go was exactly the direction I'd accidentally taken the night before. All’s well that ends well.

6. I’ve learned to trust my gut more than ever

Brunch in Newport, Rhode Island – Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

While I do think that GPS systems built into cell phones and cars have changed the way people travel, I recommend that everyone refrain from using a GPS system for at least a few hours while traveling. Yes, you can get lost—but getting lost sometimes tells us more about a city than actually walking the right path. What's more, although it will be difficult for you at first, relying on memory for direction will help you trust your gut and intuition more than ever.

Case in point: As mentioned above, on our drive back to New York, my friend and I made a quick stop in Providence, Rhode Island on our way home. It's a city I've never been to, and I didn't even take the time to study a map of Newport like I did before the weekend started. After a weekend of navigating Newport without a GPS, I feel more confident in my ability to navigate Newport by trusting my inner compass. It worked: we didn't get lost once, including when we drove aimlessly around the city center observing our surroundings.

Newport, Rhode Island - Tanya Ghahremani/Bustle

The experience was definitely more difficult than I expected, but it's definitely one I would repeat - it was refreshing to guide myself through mindfulness without digital help, and it helped me realize that my reliance on my phone didn't matter . It has to be this heavy. You'll get lost, you'll find your way, and you'll notice the plethora of Starbucks locations - all for a more authentic experience.

Just make sure you don't print the wrong instructions. Learn from my mistakes.