My colleague John has been at the Consumer Electronics Show this week and I’m sure he’s been checking out plenty of GPS-related devices that will get you where you want to go and keep you from getting lost. Sometimes you kind of want to get lost though, or at least discover some corner of the map that isn’t overrun by everyone else.
Will “corner of the map” become an anachronism in the digital age? I hope not, because no matter how good the online maps get, they’re never going to be as user-friendly as a paper one you spread out on the table when dreaming and planning. This is especially true when you’re off the grid in international destinations. Good luck getting “street view” directions for the countryside around Uxmal or trying to get insight from Google Earth on the screwed-up, no-signs roads of Costa Rica. And at $11.95, this is a whole lot cheaper than daily GPS rental charges from Hertz—if that’s even an option where you’re going.
That’s why I like these great adventure maps from National Geographic. They sent me a Yucatan, Mexico one to check out since I know that area quite well and the map is really impressive. First of all, it has the teeny tiny Gulf Coast town of Chuburna on it, where I have a little Mexican beach house (available to rent for only $275 a week—hint hint). It also has all those lesser-known Maya ruins that get a fleeting mention in guidebooks—there are 22 of them outside Campeche and Merida—and actually shows you the roads that will get you there.
Unlike with most online maps, these have little icons to tell you where the beaches, surf breaks, fishing spots, snorkeling spots, and best windsurfing areas are—from one side of the Yucatan to the other. Every lighthouse, airport, and gas station too. The back side breaks down the most important archeological sites.
These are not fragile AAA maps, however. They’re waterproof, tear resistant, and “GPS compliant with a full UTM grid.” So there, you can have it both ways.
See more information on any of the adventure maps at www.natgeomaps.com
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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