Somewhere along the way, we humans gave up the task of finding our own way when driving. Instead, we now mostly rely on technology to show us the way. We simply type our destination into our phones and let them do the rest.
But doesn’t that defeat the purpose at some point? Instead of going the way we want to go, we’re going the way we’re told to go. And that’s really the point of a road trip anyways: to go where we want to go and see what we want to see.
Before smartphones, people got around just fine for the better part of the 20th century. As someone who has done four cross-country road trips before the advent of the smartphone, I’m here to tell you it can be done — and how.
Turn off the GPS, don’t open Google Maps on your phone and set off for an adventure on the open road. So what if your phone doesn’t reroute you to avoid a patch of traffic? Here are six tips to help you reconnect with your instincts and feel that open road.
Get an up-to-date atlas
Your atlas will be your best friend. At one time they were like receiving a rite of passage as a gift from your parents. Rand McNally tends to make the simplest and also most extensive atlases you can buy. For less than $20, their 2018 Road Atlas will more than get the job done.
Pick up a few local maps, too
While an atlas provides a great U.S. overview and insight within each state, if you’re diving deep into unknown territories, you may want to grab a few local maps from gas stations. If you’re going to be spending some time in an area, having a local map can come in pretty handy.
Map your route
This is one of the most important parts of traveling without a GPS. Before heading out, map out with your atlas where you’re heading and how you’d like to get there. There will undoubtedly be multiple routes you can go, and that’s part of the fun!
Figure out some places you want to stop and see: cultural sites, national parks, breweries, historic landmarks, bike trails — wherever you want to go. Once you have that figured out, you can then decide places that make sense to stay and how much driving you want to do each day — or maybe you just want to live out of your car the whole time.
On longer road trips, setting a nice, comfortable pace is always a good idea so you don’t burn out. Deciding how far you want to go each day will give you an idea of how the trip will play out.
But don't be afraid to stray from it
Flexibility is also crucial without a GPS. Sometimes there are detours and sometimes you want to stay a little longer in one place or get to the next place a little quicker.
Plus, you never know when you’re going to come across something that sparks your interest and deems you pull over and check it out. One on particular cross-country road trip, my cousin and I had just left Colorado Springs, Colorado, and immediately came upon a sign for Red Rocks. Having never seen the legendary amphitheater, we pulled over and explored it before hitting the road for the day.
Pay attention to road signs
Road signs are the backbone of the American highway system. They can tell you what food options are around, how far till the next gas station and what sort of sightseeing opportunities are nearby. They’ll also point to any construction changes and detours, so make sure you’re paying attention to them.
Two other things to keep in mind about the American interstate system:
– Two-digit interstates usually go directly through cities while three-digit interstates go around them.
– Odd-numbered highways run north to south and even-numbered ones run east to west.
Getting lost and having an adventure is the point of going on a road trip in the first place. Say yes to things you wouldn’t normally say yes to. Turn down a road you may not have otherwise. Immerse yourself in the trip and let yourself get lost in it; focus on the present and open yourself to mindfulness. You won’t be sorry you did.
More about road trips from GrindTV