Maps Improve Your Brain Power!

I read a newspaper article recently that discussed the loss of the skill of map reading and the importance that this skill has on keeping our brains actively making connections. This is probably something we’ve always known but with the rise in popularity of Sat Nav, google maps and other location finders on our phones and built into cars now, are we losing valuable brain training?

Of course there are times when someone telling you where to go (in a nice way) can be very handy especially in unfamiliar bigger towns and cities or if you are travelling alone, but remember what we used to do? Plan where you wanted to go, get out a map or street directory and memorise to the best of your ability and off you go. Then, if you still got lost, pull over and recheck your bearings (if you’re a woman) or continue driving using your innate sense of direction to get you back on track (if you’re a man). Please note tongue should be firmly lodged in cheek when reading this!

Admittedly if you’ve travelled the same highways and roads, and even sometimes with years in between trips, its often amazing what you can remember of the layout of towns and which direction to head to next. But progress of course often means, new roads and highways, built up areas and new housing and what you thought you knew is suddenly unfamiliar.

Not that google maps always gets it right either. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of being sent down a dead end road, or sent into a subdivision that never used to exist, and worst, being taken on the scenic route with a caravan in tow, when you could’ve been on an easier, wider road to get to your destination. So give me a paper map any day.

I still like having a strip map on board when we travel because I can see for myself how many kilometres from point A to point B and what points of interest there may be along the way. I like the fact that you can see where lakes, rivers, scenic attractions, caravan parks and more are located. I like being able to plan ahead for fuel stops, rest stops and possible places to stay. Even if it’s a road we’ve taken and a journey we’ve done before I still like the strip map because there is always a town or landmark that we haven’t spent much time at along the way, so we can plan different rest stops to see something new.

With strip and paper maps I also love the fact that you can make your own notes along the way too. We were given an invaluable gift before we headed off on our first drive to WA, when friends who had done part of the same trip only a short time before us, gave us a map which they (she) had written on. The map had neat little penned messages showing the nicer places to free camp, cheaper fuel stops and scenic beaches to visit. A truly useful tool it was too. Naturally things don’t stay exactly the same but it gave us a great guide if we were unsure about those questions you have like… ‘Do we stay here or is there something better further along’?

Probably the best reason for keeping those maps handy though is for the benefit that reading maps has on the brain. By using orientation and navigational skills and converting information from short to long term memory we keep the mental maps in our brain connected and firing. It’s basically one of those ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ scenarios.

That is reason enough for me to continue with my paper maps and keep jotting down notes for the reasons to stop along the way.

Happy road tripping however you like to do it.


16 thoughts on “Maps Improve Your Brain Power!

    1. I worry sometimes that technology is running away faster than knowing the impact on education and young brains. I guess all we can do is keep passing on the ways we know as well as keeping up with what’s new. And if all else fails run away in the caravan!

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  1. Last time we went on a big trip we forget our camps 9 map book. I was lost for something to do when in the passenger seat. I usually use the map book to study Australian geography, plan future trips, or day dream about the ones I may do one day. It’ll be with us next time for sure.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more. As full time navigator and one third driver I carry a full map of each state (except Vic) I seem to think that’s in my head already 🤪. When we did the West Coast I printed the full trip on RAASA strip maps which were invaluable. On long Outback trips it’s nice to know that there’ll be a tank or a bridge in x kms. Being a total map nut we also use Gabbi Garmin, Mrs Google Maps and Wikicamps. As Woody seems to enjoy the thrill of running on empty and Mrs Google comes into her own with choice of servos and type.

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  3. Couldn’t agree more Glenys. We always keep a mini 4×4 atlas in the car for road trips and I love it. I can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve landed at a dead end/gate//river/state border that wasn’t on our route. Grounds for divorce? Yep, give me a physical map any day. 😏

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    1. Hi Coral no I actually print strip maps from the website of the RAA in South Australia. I love having that paper in hand and turning pages as the miles go by, and writing notes on them along the way. Or I grab maps for local areas from the tourist information outlets. Then I reuse them over and over again and file away at home.


  4. My husband, being the Mathematician, loves maps too. He agrees with you that they’re good for the brain just like puzzles and games. I hope they continue on because sat navs and google maps don’t always get it right as you say. The bigger picture is best seen on a paper map too. Happy days ahead!!

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