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.