To GPS or not to GPS

I guess it was time.  Maps are getting harder and harder to find.  Although, after a couple of weeks with “Naggy” (as we’ve named it), I’m still not fully sold on our new Garmin GPS.  I think it’s really more that I resent needing it… but deep inside, I know that it’s become a necessity in today’s world.

Living this simple (and modest) lifestyle these days, we’re always on our guard against acquiring things.  After all, when you’re living in a van, you just don’t have room for extra “stuff.”  What we do have has to be deliberate, functional and practical.

Granted, by most people’s standards, a GPS falls in that category.

We decided on a lower-end version of the GPS, as we really don’t care about all the bells and whistles. (Remember, we’re aiming for a simplified lifestyle… not one filled with modern complications.)  We wanted something that would: 1) tell us where we are if we get lost, 2) help us find our way to our destination.  That’s all we needed.  Of course, it came with a few other features, but we haven’t really used them yet.

(This is the version of GPS we purchased – click the image to see pricing,)

Our first experience with “Naggy” was a bit frustrating, but offered some good “lessons.”  First off, it didn’t come with instructions.  It would seem that you have to download the instruction manual from the web.  Now, that might not seem like a big deal to most people.  But, we were on the road when we bought it.  We don’t have “fancy phones” so our internet access is limited.  To say that this was frustrating is a bit of an understatement.

First lesson:  If you’re buying an electronic item while traveling, plan to have/find internet access shortly thereafter (if you’d like to have the instruction manual available).

Our next destination was a free camping spot near Pensacola.  The campground’s a park on Florida Fish & Wildlife land, and we weren’t sure what it was going to be like.  Additionally, we weren’t yet comfortable with the GPS.  So we did some internet research ahead of time, and noted the GPS coordinates for the campground.

As a backup, we wrote down actual directions from the free camping website that introduced us to the campground.  We’re so very glad we did.  By the time we were near the campground, it was dark. The main road nearest to the campground was under construction and wasn’t well lit.  Access to the side roads was sketchy, to say the least.  Our GPS kept trying to rout us to roads that weren’t there, or that we couldn’t get to.


The packed sand road to the campground.

So, we followed the written directions instead.  Once off the main road, the secondary road was packed sand.  The GPS still tried to route us through side roads – but these roads were unmaintained and sandy.  (Keep in mind that this driving was all happening after dark in an area we’d not been before. )  Had we taken any of those routes, I’m convinced we would’ve ended up stuck in in the sand in a remote section of the jungle (in the middle of the night).  This is what earned it the name “Naggy.”

garmin misdirection

The Garmin directing us to take an unmaintained sandy road into the jungle.

Lesson Two:  It’s a good idea to have backup (written) directions, especially if you’re traveling to a remote area that’s unfamiliar.  

Lesson Three:  Don’t just follow the GPS’s instructions blindly.  Assess the situation.  They’re not always right.  If what it’s directing you to do looks questionable or risky, you might consider an alternate route.

All that said, we have used the GPS more, and have found it handy under most circumstances.  I don’t like Naggy, but I’m glad we have it.

BUT, we still (and will likely always) prefer printed maps.  Our favorite is by far the Delorme Gazetter maps (one map book per state). Click the image below for pricing and info.

They’re very detailed and have nearly every road you could imagine shown for the entire state. We’re working on acquiring a full set, based on the states we travel to.  (But that’s going to take a while.) Plus, with so many printed items going “out of print,” we want to have a set before they disappear.  They’re a good backup, and give you confidence and a sense of independence when you’re on the road.

2 thoughts on “To GPS or not to GPS

  1. I hear u about GPS gadgets! Mine has taken me done questionable roads too, Just last trip If I hadnt stopped (in the middle of the night) to ask directions I would have gone to places I may not have gotten back from easy!! Trust ur instincts!


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