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Take the Road Less Traveled

by Vanessa Ullman

Photo courtesy of Isabelle Yap

We have all been there: It’s dark out, your phone battery is low and you have a long walk back to your Airbnb in an unfamiliar city. Using the 3 percent battery power left, Google Maps becomes your tour guide for the night. Following the directions, your phone is able to safely get you to your destination, keeping you on the correct path towards the comfort of your temporary home.

While Google Maps might be a staple for some travelers, it does not mean that it is used by all. Although staying on the beaten path can seem ideal for some, there are those that prefer to roam the streets free from technology.

For Ceri Savage, a self-proclaimed “travel addict” and blogger, traveling free of technology and an online navigation system poses new challenges. Although Savage noted that it was nice to get lost in a foreign place, she did point out the potential dangers of wandering into unknown territory.

“You might be less inclined to arrive somewhere late at night knowing you won’t have Google maps to guide you,” wrote Savage. “With technology-free travel, you often have to plan and be consequently restricted. Less security, less spontaneity.”

This restriction is a real safety concern, and one that begs the question of whether it is a negative thing for tourists to be heavily reliant on their smartphones for directions.

Google has recently capitalized on assisting consumers’ travel needs with their updated version of Google Flights. With new additions that will personalize the travelers experience when booking a ticket, this platform might become as popular as Google Maps.

According to Richard Holden, vice president of product management and travel at Google, the updates make buying plane tickets a lot easier, and potentially cheaper. “We [Google] monitor the price for you and if the price drops any time before departure, we’ll send you an email letting you know once your flight takes off—so there’s no work on your end,” wrote Holden.

With the combination of Google Maps and Google Flights, planning travel might make some feel more at ease. In addition to help with buying tickets, Google Flights can also point voyagers in the direction of hotels in a variety of neighborhoods in their desired city.

However, for those who do not want to rely on their smartphones for navigation, there are a number of perks to wandering around a new place free from technology. To start, it is freeing to walk around a cobblestone street or a seaside town with no real hurry or concrete destination. Without Google Maps saying, “turn left” at each block, travelers are able to go at their own pace, allowing them to discover new sights along the way.

From outdoor parks to festive street fairs, there are a handful of unique opportunities in a city that might not be in a guidebook or on a map. Even though it is important to know how to get back to your hotel, or where the closest train station is, it is still possible to avoid using Google Maps for a few moments on a vacation, as long as one is confident in arriving safely back at a home for the night.

As stated best by the travel blog Travel Through Life, “Put the guide down and walk away. It’s time to travel without directions.”

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