Smartphones have changed the way we travel and there are undeniable benefits to having one when visiting a foreign country. Whether you want to find the best cacio de pepe in town, find out how much Duomo tickets cost, or snap insta-worthy photos to share, it can all be accomplished by the tiny device in your pocket. With simple functionality and massive amounts of data available, digital maps have become one of the most ubiquitous apps for navigating new landscapes. But where does that leave the trusted and timeless paper map? Has it become a tool reserved for the technologically challenged? A device useful for our grandparents generation but an archaic way of moving from place to place?

I think not! In a time when digital maps dominate, there is still room and purpose for paper maps to exist. Here are five reasons that you should ditch your phone and utilize a paper map instead.

You’ll learn the city better. Using a paper map is the best way to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Instead of looking down and absently relying on a phone for directions, your forced to look up and notice places and landmarks on the route.  You’re more likely to know your way around in the future and come across local gems that you may not have passed with a digital map. Your chances of getting hit by a car or yelled at by a local also decrease exponentially when you’re not walking with your phone in your face.

Paper maps are more reliable. Most of us would agree that cell phones are considerably reliable. They stand up to our almost 24/7 use of them, and our urge to upgrade is typically based off of new and improved functionality. On the daily, our cell phones work great. But using them outside of the country creates unique challenges. Depending on the vacation destination, cell coverage could be sparse and the digital map might not download. Expensive international data plans means every moment the app is running, charges are accumulating. And some countries are scarce with outlets, meaning once your phone dies it could be hours until you’re able to recharge. All of these reasons point to the advantages of having a paper map on hand.

It helps you see the big picture.  When you search for a location on your smartphone, you get a big picture of a small area. The phone zooms in on the destination and gives you the most direct route from where you are to where you want to be. That’s helpful when you’re home and and trying to dodge traffic, but you’re on vacation! It’s all about the journey right? Using a paper map gives valuable context and allows you to see where you are in relation to the rest of the city.

It allows you to take a technology break. Our world is driven by digital communication and it has never been easier to ‘be’ multiple places at once. For example maybe you’re physically in Italy, but mentally you’ve just checked your email and are transported back to home, work, and an upcoming deadline. Do yourself (and the person you’re traveling with) a favor and put down the phone. Be present, be engaged, and don’t make excuses for why you need to have your phone on you. Find out where the visitors center is, go pick up a free map of the city and get to exploring!

It’s an inexpensive souvenir to take home. A paper map is proof of the adventure in all of it’s wrinkled, stained and ripped glory. It holds memories of your time away and is a portal back into another world. It’s one you might want to revisit when the vacation is over and you’re back to life’s routines.  It can also be a great reference should you choose to return, or a resource for friends visiting the same area.

Categories: Exploration

Leslie Schipper Carvitto

I’m a writer and photographer fueled by creativity, community, coffee, and the great outdoors. My desire for travel stems from an honest curiosity to understand and connect with people, culture and the world more deeply. My travels essentials always include my camera, coffee kit, journal, a good book and enthusiasm. I don’t like to play favorites but Patagonia, France and Italy are high on my list of treasured places. Next up on the itinerary? Exploring the home of Middle-Earth- New Zealand!