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For the love of maps!

Parents … teach your children how to read a map, would you??  I love maps and am always the map reader on our trips. I’ve used AAA maps to navigate around the U.S.  We used a map in Japan to find our ryokan by counting the streets we passed since we couldn’t read Japanese.

I’ve used Michelin maps all over Europe to get us to small villages in France for the Tour de France.  We even have a shorthand of explaining how big a road is based on the colors used on Michelin maps – white road (really narrow, maybe one lane), yellow roads (has some minor route designation) and red roads (major route designation).  Paper maps have served us well.

Along came Google maps and my students all said “Why do I need to know how to read a map?  Google will tell me where to go.”   I use Google maps.  They saved our lives in Austin one evening when we could see the hotel but couldn’t figure out how to navigate the silly side roads all over the Texas interstates.

Yes, we used Google maps on this trip to help get around Tasmania and Western Australia.  I even let “The Voice” give directions.  However, being able to read a map helped me make a decision to NOT accept Google’s directions to drive through the middle of Perth at rush hour.  Google directions don’t do any good when you lose cell reception!  And the lady’s voice is less than useful when she says, “Head northeast from the parking lot” and you have no clue where north is.  Reading the map and making the left, right, or straight decision is a good skill to have!

Another reason to know how to read a map … in the middle of cities with lots of high rise buildings, GPS doesn’t work really well.  You need to be able to figure out which direction you’re walking.  You can turn around before you walk too far as soon as you find a cross street.

Reason #2 – You need to figure out which tram/bus goes where and which stop to get off.  All you have is the tram map to solve the problem because you have no cell reception.

Reason #3 – You’re on the “Amazing Race” and need to find the challenge.  If you watch the show, you’ll know how many teams have lost because neither of them could read a map!

Even if GPS is working, a few map problem-solving skills can be useful.  Ever come out of a subway stop that had 6 exits in the middle of the city and try to figure out even which side of the street you’re on?  Do I turn left, or do I turn right?  Being able to follow the Google blue dot as it moves comes in handy!

Mark and I must look like we know where we’re going on this trip.  Two ladies from Hong Kong asked for directions back to their hotel in Launceston, Tasmania.  Thanks heavens they knew the name of their hotel.  Google showed us the location of the hotel and we gave them simple directions.

Some college-age guy was standing at the cross walk in Melbourne looking confused and staring at his phone. He asked if we could tell him where Swanston Street is.  We told him to walk straight for 7 blocks and he’d be there.  His reply – “Best directions I’ve had all day!”

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