For our November Readers' Review: “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” by Anne Tyler. As we prepare for holiday gatherings, join Diane and her guests to discuss this master work from the author who has made an art of exploring family love and dysfunction.
Remember how we used to plan road trips? Get out the atlas, find the highways, roads and rural routes that would get us from Point A to Point B. And what happened if we got lost? Pull over to the side of the road and ask for directions. While reading maps is a skill some of us love and others of us loathe there is no doubt today it’s being replaced by digital technology. Google Maps in our cars and on our phones not only makes it easier than ever to get around. It also allows us to find a restaurant at the last minute or avoid a traffic jam. This has some wondering: is it still possible to be lost? Diane and her guests discuss the art of getting lost.
- Carl Hoffman contributing editor, National Geographic Traveler. He is the author of “Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art” and “The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains and Planes.”
- Andrea Sachs travel writer, The Washington Post
- David Pogue founder, Yahoo Tech. He is a monthly columnist for Scientific American and host of science shows on PBS’s “NOVA.” He’s been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since 2002.
- Simon Garfield author, "On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks". His new book is "To the Letter: A Curious History of Correspondence".
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. It's the dog days of summer, which means vacation time. Whether it's a weekend trip to the beach or an adventure halfway around the world, many of us rely on Google Maps to get us where we need to go. Here to discuss navigation in the digital age, Andrea Sachs, travel writer for the Washington Post. Carl Hoffman, author of the new book titled, "Savage Harvest." And joining us from Vergennes, Vermont, David Pogue. He's founder of Yahoo Tech.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour, I'll look forward to hearing about your journeys, your efforts to find your way. Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Welcome to all of you.
MS. ANDREA SACHSHi. Oh, great to be here.
MR. CARL HOFFMANThanks so much. I've been listening to you since 1983.
REHMThat's really neat.
HOFFMANSo it's awesome to finally be here.
REHMThank you. And we're having a little bit of trouble getting a hold of David Pogue. We hope to have him by phone very shortly. Andrea Sachs, tell us about your recent experience with the iPhone not getting you where you wanted to go.
SACHSIt's the Peoria story, isn't it? I can't live it down, but it was illuminating. I learned so much from this experience. And briefly, I was in Chicago, and then I was going to go to Peoria, Illinois to check out the caterpillar visitor center. Just explore it. And I simply put in Peoria into my iPhone and then saw that it was about two and a half hours, and I just started driving. Looking around like, oh, Gary, Indiana. Michael Jackson. Indianapolis. Wait a minute. This is the wrong direction.
SACHSBut I had such trust and faith in my phone that I kept on driving thinking, I mean, I was trying to rationalize that maybe it was taking me down to go back up. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there's also a Peoria, Arizona. So I was really lucky I didn't get that one. But basically, it just found any Peoria and sent me there. But I didn't have the wherewithal to check at the bottom of the directions to see where I was going.
REHMSo, what did you learn from that experience?
SACHSYou cannot be dependent on your gadget. You need to be aware of your surroundings and you need to scroll down to see where the final destination is.
REHMSo, but you're a travel writer. Don't people have to depend on GPS to get around?
SACHSAbsolutely. Because the way I did it before, I had a Smartphone. It was ridiculous. I mean, it was me shouting at every third person. Like, do I take a left or a right? You also realize, people aren't very good with directions. You know, they get you there, but then they sort of abandon you, so that was my first technique, was shouting at people. Very nice. And then printing out Google Maps. But if I ever wanted to change my route, I got lost again. So, I would do three versions of Google Maps. I mean, it was ridiculous. It was embarrassing. I killed so many trees doing this.
SACHSSo then I finally got the Smartphone and I just became so co-dependent on it. But now I realize I need to also know -- have a sense of where I'm going.
REHMYeah. You really have to have a sense of where you're going. Carl Hoffman, you've written a book titled, "Savage Harvest." And it's about Michael Rockefeller and his quest for primitive art. Did he get lost in the process?
HOFFMANWow. That's a really, really good question. We're talking literally and metaphorically.
HOFFMANI think he, technically, he was not lost. He knew where he was going. He was -- of course, it was 1961, before smart phones. He didn't even have a radio. He was crossing the mouth of a river in the southwest coast of what was then Netherlands, New Guinea. Now Indonesian Papua. And his boat overturned. He knew where he was going. His boat overturned and he drifted for 24 hours. And then he violated the cardinal rule of yachting, which is never to leave the boat. And he swam away and vanished.
HOFFMANSo, but, you know, we're talking about a place, 10,000 square miles of swamp with no, even today, no roads. One grass airstrip. One cell tower. No power in most of it. And he, you know, ultimately, I mean, I guess my whole book is, in a way, about his getting lost.
HOFFMANAnd then my attempts to both find him, what happened to him, which is a, I guess, a way of finding your way. But also leaving a lot -- to be there in such a remote place with no technology is to be lost.
REHMAnd the question becomes do you think we have become overly reliant on technology to find our way?
HOFFMANWell, I think Andrea made a really interesting point, which is that I think, for me, when we're intertwined with technology, with our smartphones and we're trying to get from Chicago to Peoria in a hurry, using Google Maps for instance, and that starts to fail. You know, it's incredibly anxiety inducing. You know, it just drives you insane, but, and we've become co-dependent on these devices. And they're always, we're always asking them for input and they're always giving us affirmation in one way or another.
HOFFMANBut when you leave them behind completely, which is a different thing altogether, I think you travel into a completely new space, which is a much more interesting and calmer space.
REHMMore interesting and more calm. I was talking this morning with the producer just before I came on the air. In the same way, we have become overly dependent, I think, on calculators. How many people remember how to add, subtract, divide, multiply? Use fractions? Things we all learned as children, and now you go to a calculator and there you are.
SACHSI remember being in grade school saying why am I learning this? I have a calculator. I think I...
REHMSee, I didn't have a calculator learning those things, so...
HOFFMANI was never good at math with or without a calculator, but if I was better in math, one of the things I always wished I could do was to navigate celestially. Because, to me, there is, again, you're sort of talking about -- you know, it would be amazing to be able to look up into the stars anyplace, anywhere, and find out your location. And that becomes a metaphor, in a way, for finding your way, I think. And it would be, like, what if all you had to do was carry in your knapsack a sextant and a pen and pad of paper and you never -- didn't need a phone and you could lat and long wherever you were in the world. Think of the security that would give you.
REHMOkay. But, okay. Let's go now to David Pogue. It's good to have you with us, David.
MR. DAVID POGUEThank you. Sorry about the connection troubles here in the wilds of Vermont.
REHMThat's okay. Tell me what you think. Have we become too reliant on technology to get us where we want to go?
POGUENo. I don't think so. And, to me, this is all reminiscent of pocket calculators coming out and the hand wringing that went on over, oh no, kids won't learn to do basic arithmetic in their heads anymore. Or when the laser printer came out and people said, oh no, people won't need to hand set type anymore. Or when the automobile came out. Oh dear, what about all the poor horse handlers? I mean, technology marches on and this is a brilliant technology that we will always have with us in the future.
POGUESo there's really no reason to hang on to the older map folding technology, which, let's face it, in the big picture, that starts to look like a work around as the world waited for GPS technology to come along. Which is what, you know, God meant us to have in the first place.
REHMAnd you say that Google Maps is the greatest app ever written. What makes it so good?
POGUEI think I have said that, and I believe it. Google Maps is the best app I've got, the best app I've ever seen for a phone. When you start typing in your destination, it knows after about four characters what you mean. I mean, it's just absolutely almost psychic in guessing where you want to go. So, I feel bad for Andrea's experience, where she went to Peoria.
SACHSI'm shaking my head. I went to Indiana, not Illinois. Cause it thought I wanted to go to Indiana.
POGUEBut honestly, with all due respect, her app showed her the complete address as she typed it in. So, if you type in Peoria into Google Maps, it will complete the entire address that it's proposing. It will show a list of Peorias. And it won't proceed unless you tap the Peoria you want. So, that might have been, you know, operator error.
SACHSI'm totally at fault.
HOFFMANBut, of course, I mean, there's nothing you can argue with that, about that, in some ways, except that of course, there are places in the world where there are no Google Maps. And I've spent a lot of time in them. And those are when you don't have any power at all, and even if you did and you type in (word?) Papua, nothing shows up except a big blank. Or a little star on a big green. And that puts you in a very different place, and you have to rely once again on -- it's not even a sense of direction, but charm and interpersonal communication skills.
REHMGive me an example of where that puts you in your head when you're lost. And you like being lost.
HOFFMANI do. I mean, I don't like being lost if I'm rushing to a -- "The Diane Rehm Show."
HOFFMANOn 10:50 and I can't find it.
HOFFMANBut if I'm out there in the world, then I think the whole idea of being lost is kind of -- you know, you're never really lost. If you're out totally in the wilderness and there's no people around, then that's a certain kind of lost. But if you're out in a place that is like (word?) or where there are people, but no one speaks English and there's no technology. You know, what do you do? You have to find people and you have to communicate to them and...
REHMAnd then you hope you're gonna find your way again. We'll take a short break here. I want to hear from all of you. I want to know how you feel about using technology as a map and getting lost.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here's our first email. It's from Frank. He says, "I love maps and love reading them but while maps are great for getting an overall piece of a large area and even specific route planning, there's one very valuable piece of information they cannot tell you, which is where you actually are on that map in real time." And that is presumably what you could and did, Andrea, get on your iPhone.
SACHSRight. I -- I didn't have the context. I didn't have all the little points adding up to where I was going. I was sort of making them up where it was sending me to Indiana and I should've been going to Illinois. I was sort of rationalizing that this is the way. But if I had seen a broader map and I saw my little "your are here" and you need to go there, not there, you're right, I would've had a better sense.
REHMWhat do you think about that, David Pogue?
POGUEActually, that's what I love most about these apps. It gives you a sense of context that a paper map would never give you. As your correspondent says, it doesn't show you where you are on the map. There's no blue dot. Frequently when I'm on long car rides, not the driver, I will look at Google Maps to see my blue dot. And of course it starts up as a very close-up view. You see a few miles in either direction. But on purpose I will zoom out, zoom out, zoom out until I'm seeing the entire half of the country and realize with this metaphysical shock exactly what I'm doing. I'm driving around our planet. And the ability to zoom in and out smoothly is just an amazing mine-blower in that regard.
REHMAnd joining us now is Simon Garfield. He's the author of "On the Map: A Mind Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks." His new book is "To the Letter: A Curious History of Correspondence". Simon Garfield was on this program back in January, 2013 to talk about his book on maps. Simon, what about the history of maps? What fascinates you so much?
MR. SIMON GARFIELDWell hi, Diane. It's nice to talk to you again.
GARFIELDWell, gosh, I mean, I love maps because they tell fantastic tales really. You know, I'm neither sort of pro or anti digital mapping. I have satellite in my car. I use maps on my phone all the time and that's fantastic. But I love the old tales that maps tell.
GARFIELDAnd the way they tell history, which is obviously a history exploration. And it is a history of getting lost as well. I mean, you know, I'm sure I don't have to say that, you know, the classic story of Columbus thought that he was sailing somewhere else. And, you know, who knows how long the new world would've been -- you know, how long it would've taken for the new world to be discovered had he not sort of gone the wrong way.
REHMAnd, you know, when you came on the show last year, you said you were worried about what we lose by our reliance on digital maps. Talk about that.
GARFIELDWell, I mean, one thing we lose is obviously the ability to read maps and -- old fashioned maps anyway. You know, my kids who are in their mid 20's, smart kids, find it very, very difficult to kind of locate themselves on a folding map. Like me, of course, I find it impossible to, you know, fold up a folding map again once you've opened it and that's...
REHMI think a lot of people share that problem.
GARFIELDSo I think, you know, as a skill and as an art form, it's a bit like for the, you know, handwriting, you think well, if you've got computers, why are you going to, you know, have to be taught beautiful handwriting in school? I think though, you know, digital maps, wonderful as they are, they do run out of batteries. We do lose the GPS on them. And so I think the ability to actually be able to read a map in extremist or if you're up a mountain or on a walk somewhere, is just a very useful skill.
REHMSo is the idea of getting lost today harder, much harder than it could ever have been?
GARFIELDWell, yeah, I think it is harder. You know, it's harder for us to get lost and for people not to know where we are, which you can say is either a good or a bad thing. It's easier to follow, it's much harder to hide in the world I think. I mean, obviously when we open our phones, it helps us not only knowing where we are but it helps the phone companies and, you know, maybe the police department and everyone else to know where we are.
GARFIELDAnd that's a big thing. I mean, I love getting lost. You know, I -- as you said, I wrote this book on the maps, that actually my map-reading skills are not great. And I kind of love coming across things that I didn't know were there, especially walking around London, you know, where I'm talking to you now. Actually, it's terrific finding places and coming across places that you had no idea (unintelligible) ...
GARFIELDYou know, and the way you'll do that is by taking a wrong turn.
POGUEYeah, I would agree there's beauty to serendipity. And I knew that would come up in this conversation. However, there's a beauty to GPS apps, which is that you don't have to use them. They are purely optional. So I don't -- I guess I don't really buy that argument. You can still handwrite a thank you letter and should, but that doesn't mean that, you know, electronics are evil.
POGUEMeanwhile, yes, we lose a few things but we also gain, in my opinion, things that trump what's lost. First of all, the environmental impact of GPS is fantastic. Think of all the trillions of tons of carbon not release into the atmosphere because we're not wasting time driving in circles. Second of all, we gain time. We get where we're going when we're not looking for serendipity but efficiency. We get where we're going and we buy ourselves time to be with our kids and work meaningfully. I don't think many of your listeners would say that they love being trapped behind the wheel when life is going by.
REHMOn the other hand, I have to confess, I am a person who has tremendous fear of getting lost. How did you feel, Andrea, when you got lost?
SACHSI spend my whole life getting lost so I got lost last time I came here. And I live down the street so it's just -- it's just one of those weaknesses and flaws that you have. And I -- a little voice inside me gets a little anxious like uh, and that's like, it's going to be okay. Because, like we were saying, there are people around you. It's never going to be awful. You're not going to get -- you're not going to drive off a cliff. And in way it's good because we're not challenged so much these days, and so it pushes you out of your comfort zone. And I'm okay with that.
SACHSSo I stop and ask someone, I go into a gas station, I'm like, oh, I think I'll look up the coffee while I'm here, and make the most of the moment. But it does stress me a little bit and then I just get over that.
REHMWhat do you think, Carl?
HOFFMANWell, I think the idea of getting lost is at the heart of the idea of discovery and all that that implies. And, you know, the world that -- you know, the world of pure technology is a world that sort of lost the poetry and serendipity and discovery. And yeah, there are all these efficiencies but there are these great things that are lost.
HOFFMANI mean, a couple of my -- the most special moments in my life have been times where once I was working on my previous book, "The Lunatic Express," and I got on a ferry, an old wooden ferry in Ambon in the Moluccas in Indonesia. And I didn't know where I was going. I didn't know -- I mean, literally I didn't know where it was going. I didn't know when we were going to be back. I didn't know what was at the place that we were going to.
REHMWhy did you get on this ferry?
HOFFMANWell, I was writing a book about traveling around the world's craziest busses, boats, trains and planes.
HOFFMANAnd I just saw this little ferry and I was curious about it. And I said, can I get on? Where's it going? And the guy said, Buru, the island of Buru. We're going to Lexila (sp?) . And I said, can I come and he said sure. And I ran home and I got on the internet and I looked in my lonely planet and I couldn't find anything really about Buru or Lexila. And I went and got on that boat. And I didn't bring anything with me. I didn't even bring any water, didn't bring any food. I didn't -- I had nothing at all.
HOFFMANAnd I remember -- I can still remember sitting on the deck before we were leaving and I felt this incredible sense of peace and calm and happiness that we were going on this to this place. And I had no idea when I would even be back. And it was a beautiful thing.
REHMAnd it was great. All right. We've got lots of callers. I want to go to the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Cori in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.
CORIHi, Diane. Thank you for having me.
CORIWell, I think it's an interesting topic, definitely. I have spent -- for about two-and-a-half years of my life I traveled hitchhiking across the country from, you know, California, Oregon as far from west to east as far as I could. And I had a telephone but it was not -- it did not have any sort of GPS or Smartphone to where I could just click on, you know, how I'm getting there.
CORIAnd I think whenever I think about how it is so easy to just pick up your phone and figure out exactly where you're at by this little blue dot, there's something about you can still figure out exactly where you're at by using the longitude, latitude, by -- it's actually not as hard. Like, it just takes a little bit longer because you can't just instantly boom, there you are.
CORIBut then whenever I had -- it was basically an idea -- without using technology it's more of a idea of getting to rely on yourself and be able to know that you actually are the one deciding and figuring out how you're going to go and where you're going to go and where you're going to end up.
REHMWhat do you think about that, David Pogue?
POGUEI think if it's a matter of challenging myself and wanting to learn a new skill, I'd rather learn Italian. This is -- you might as well learn horse shoeing or metal working. I mean, this -- yes, I mean, we should also note that our conversation today seems to be splitting into the camps of the public, the masses and special interests like travel writers and hitchhikers. Maybe the answer is different depending on who you are.
POGUEI think for most people who'd rather -- I mean, for myself my best technology would be a teleporter. I don't want to sit in a car at all. I just want to be there. So that's why that shapes my opinion.
REHMNow David, is Google actually close to mapping the entire world?
POGUEThey're very close to mapping the entire civilized world. So, no, they will not have the deserts of Namibia or whatever. But any place where people live and work and travel, they've got. And not only that, let's remember -- and incidentally, I have nothing in common with Google. They don't pay me. I hate many of their products. They're evil and all that, but this thing is amazing, this map.
POGUEThey have spent years driving the earth, millions and millions of miles in vans that do two things. They take photographs of every inch of every block of every civilized part of the country. That's the street view feature. So you can actually look at where you're going before you get there, find out if it's a bad neighborhood. But what they also do is they correct the existing maps. Roads change constantly, constantly all over the world. And Google has been systematically fixing the mistakes.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What about that, Simon? Isn't that quite an advantage over mapping a neighborhood?
GARFIELDWell, absolutely. And I think though, you know, as well, one of the great things about digital mapping which is really sort of becoming a big thing, not just amongst sort of what you might call kind of nerdy enthusiasts but it's becoming far more open. It's our ability to write our own maps now in the digital world.
GARFIELDYou know, there are all sorts of easy access online maps now that we can contribute to. Not Google Maps. Let's see, that's a close thing. But we can put in local changes, you know, a new cul-de-sac or a new fantastic café. That's a wonderful thing about digital mapping is that they tend to be increasingly -- and this is looking ahead to the future -- increasingly personalized as well, which is kind of, I think, advantageous. You know, if you're a great cyclist you can say, okay, well, I'm going to Rome. Give me a great cycle route. And you can get that up on your phone.
HOFFMANOr I love buying shoes. Where are the best shoe shops in London. So, you know, all of that is fantastic. The problem -- one problem with Google Maps that I see -- and as I said, you know, I'm not anti-Google Maps at all. I definitely use it all the time but there are some problems which obviously David would consider miner. But things like they all look the same.
GARFIELDWherever you are in the world, the map looks the same. Now that makes it very easy to read and very easy access. But how will it tell our stories of how the world has changed in 10, 20 years time? Are Google Maps something you want to put on the wall like old maps of the world from a thousand years. I don't think they are.
REHMWhat do you think, David?
POGUEYeah, I also love maps, by the way. I love the stories they tell. I love how they are art. But then again I also love illuminated manuscripts and parchments, so it doesn't mean I use them. The great thing about these maps apps is you can make them not all look all the same. You can turn into aerial satellite view. And then instead of just line drawings indicating the roads, you're seeing an actual photograph, a bird's eye view of where you're going, so you can tell is it an industrial neighborhood, is it open fields?
POGUESo I guess I'm (unintelligible) ...
GARFIELDSure. No, I agree. And I love some of the -- you know, they're called GIS maps which tell you about what's below ground as well. And now increasingly you get sort of topographical maps online that tell you about color contours and all of that. There is a slight -- and it is -- and I don't want to sound like sort of a Orwellian doom-monger, but there is a slight feeling that I have always at the back of my mind as well, is that the power of the mapmakers is now concentrated. It's a very, very small number of hands. And that wasn't always the case.
GARFIELDNow, you know, we used to buy -- if we used to buy maps then the people drawing the maps may have been fantastically unreliable and not to be trusted at all, but at least you had a huge, huge range. Now, I know there are other digital options obviously other than Google Maps, but there was -- you know, it's that classic thing. It's the same argument about Amazon. There's a huge concentration in a very, very small number of homes. Now, if, you know, there is some sort of dramatic breakdown in communications and maps go dark, incredibly unlikely I know. You know, all those kind of things. And I just think, well, again, you know, it is -- is that something that we ought to be at all concerned about?
REHMAndrea, I want to know about your travel reporting. We have just a few seconds before the break, but how much of it is planned ahead and how much is totally spontaneous?
SACHSDo you mean in terms of mapping or just my...
SACHSOh, I hate to give away my secret. I plan a lot, I do, because I only have -- I do a lot of research in advance. And I'll sort of put together a wish list that I hope I can get through.
REHMAll right. And we're going to talk about that wish list when we come back and take some of your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd let's open the phones, hear what listeners have to say. To Brian in Chicago, Illinois. Hi there, Brian.
BRIANHi Diane. Pleasure to talk to you.
BRIANI'm a truck driver, and as more and more truck drivers are coming into the field, what we're seeing is (unintelligible) because they're depending on these electronic devices too much. And it says turn here, they turn, but they're not looking. They're not looking up at the signs and, you know, we're getting more accidents that way. And the same with, you know, in day to day traffic, we're seeing drivers -- the GPS tells them get off the exit here and they just cut across. They don't even look when they change the lanes.
BRIANSo I think with standard maps, people tend to plan their trip more and they tend to look, you know, at their surroundings more.
REHMWhat do you think, David Pogue?
POGUEI agree. I'm terrified by the increasing distracted driving problems. Texting, looking at your phone for any reason, it's just like putting a blindfold on and taking your car on the road. When I use GPS, by the way, on my phone, I turn the screen off. These apps are perfectly capable of giving you verbal directions. And they're very good. I mean, they're timed. They give you the first direction, you know, a half a mile ahead. The next direction at the time of the turn. So, that would be my suggestion to anyone who wants to live.
REHMSo, we were talking, just before the break, about how you plan your trips. Do you have GPS in your car? Do you set out with your destination in mind?
SACHSI do. I have my Smartphone, so I have the mapping apps and all of that. And so, before, as I was saying, just a couple years ago, I would put -- even when I was traveling in a different state or country, I would try and print out different maps, if I were driving. Not so much walking. I'll just rely on a hotel map or something. And now, I've become so reliant on my Smartphone that I don't plan any of the directions at all. I just know what attractions I want to go to. And I might try and get a sense of are they in this neighborhood? Can I pack them all in to a day?
SACHSOr do I need to spread it out over a couple of days? That's sort of a loose outline.
REHMWhereas Carl, you really almost prefer to be wherever you are.
HOFFMANWell, obviously, it depends a little bit about what I'm doing and what the nature of the story is, but yes. I think, you know, there are some very basics that I try to find out about. And then once I go, I mean, I find that part of, that surrendering a little bit to the environment and the place and being reliant on people. I mean, it's never all these arguments about technology. It's not the technology itself. It's what you do with it. And you know, I love serendipitous meeting of people and being invited home for lunch.
HOFFMANOr being invited to peoples' houses and being invited, you know, whether it's in Rome or in Asthmat where you end up in some long house with people, almost naked. I mean, it's an, you know, the skills that are required, I think, and not just the skills, but the way it opens your mind and opens your eyes and opens your heart.
HOFFMANTo me, those are the essence of travel.
REHMHere's a tweet from Kelly. Are you traveling to reach a destination or to be on a journey? That decision determines app or map for me. David.
POGUEYes, and I'd put that another way. Are you being paid to do the travel, or are you being paid to get where you're going? I mean, if I were a travel writer, I would probably agree with Carl, but it's great to be -- you know, if I'm writing a book on being lost, then that's obviously in my advantage.
REHMAll right. To Kate in Louisville, KY. Hi.
KATEHi Diane. Thank you so much for having me.
KATEIn 2012, my husband walked across the United States. My husband and I, sorry, walked from Delaware to California to raise awareness for pet therapy and animal rescue. And we had our two dogs with us, but we navigated pretty much the entire trip with Google Maps. And...
REHMNow wait a minute. Wait a minute. Tell me what kinds of dogs you had.
KATEOne of them, we think, is a sheltie spaniel mix.
KATEThe other one is a blue heeler lab.
REHMAnd were they both able to walk with you the entire time?
KATENo. Certainly not.
REHMYou had to pick them up.
KATEThey did about the first 1100 miles with us, and then we ended up calling in a support driver at the Mississippi River.
KATEAnd his name's John Slater. The most wonderful man in the world, but he lived out of a car with us for five months to take care of the dogs, cause it was too hot for them to walk.
REHMAnd what do you think -- what was your greatest, I don't know, your mental change as a result of that walk?
KATEOh goodness. Patience and acceptance in a lot of ways. And just, honestly though, the biggest thing is that we live in an absolutely wonderful country where people still are taking care of each other. And looking out for one another. And our whole way across, we were supported and looked after and hosted and cared for like our country is one big family. And it was pretty incredible.
REHMThat's lovely. And that's sort of what you were talking about.
HOFFMANYeah. I think my experiences mirror that, not just here in the United States, but all over the world. And, you know, I wanna do respond. You know, it's not about whether you're getting paid to travel or not. I mean, I travel with my family, I travel alone, I travel for work, and I travel for pleasure. And it doesn't -- nothing changes. I mean, if you're on the way to some very specific place, Google Maps is the greatest thing in the world. But I think, you know, I just, I always say it's important for people to begin to sometimes, because we live in a world in which we try to control everything so carefully.
HOFFMANAnd we're always juggling all of these balls all the time. And that becomes -- and we don't even really become aware of it anymore, at a certain point. But then when you begin to disengage, for periods of time, you know, you go through a process that ultimately, to me, anyway, always feels very refreshing and reinvigorating
REHMDavid Pogue. Do you want to comment?
POGUENo, no. I buy that. I'm convinced. I think there are times when I want to get where I'm going and there are times when you should have the liberty of wandering. But I just -- sometimes I think about -- I sitting in traffic stopped, with all these millions of other drivers. And I know that a certain percentage of them would be off that road if they knew where they were going.
SACHSThat's like Rock Creek.
SACHSThat's like Rock Creek Parkway. You could see some of these people don't belong on Rock Creek Parkway.
REHMBecause they don't know where they're going.
SACHSThey just stumbled on it.
REHMYeah. Okay. Carl, in fact though, you recall a time when your daughter came along with you on a trip, and it was not quite what you bargained for.
HOFFMANWell, when I was working on "Lunatic," I was traveling -- "The Lunatic Express," I was traveling around the world on the world's -- theoretically, the world's most dangerous buses, boats, planes and trains. And early on, I went in through South America first and I was traveling through Peru by bus. And I had the brainstorm -- it was around spring break, to have my oldest daughter, who was in high school, senior in high school at the time, fly down to Lima and I'd pick her up and off we would go.
HOFFMANShe'd travel with me for a week, and then I'd send her back. And it was -- in theory, you know, because I don't, sometimes, think about these things as carefully as I, perhaps, should...
REHMTo put it mildly.
HOFFMANShe came down to -- and she spoke Spanish and, you know, had been studying it already for four years in high school. And she arrived. I picked her up at Lima about midnight. We jumped on a bus to Ayacucho in the Andes, which is the birthplace of the Shining Path. And there's a little bit of a backwater. The Shining Path was long defeated then. And it was a long bus ride, 12 hours or so. But I miscalculated a little bit, because when we got to Ayacucho, I'd hoped to have a day or two, and then we wanted to get another bus up to Cusco, but just straight across the spine of the Andes.
HOFFMANThe only -- I had to get her home by a certain time, and I realized the only thing to do was if we got on a bus immediately the next morning, which we did.
HOFFMANAnd that was a 24 hour straight ride right across the top of the Andes. You know, cockroaches coming out of the curtains and all -- you know, sort of precipitous drop-offs and she was nervous about it, to put it mildly.
REHMI would think so.
HOFFMANIt was a little -- I had already been traveling for a while and I, of course, I'm sort of used to it all the time, so it was sort of a shock for her to be in Dulles Airport one moment and on a bus on the -- through the spine of the Andes the next. And, you know, she remembers that trip to this day.
REHMI'm sure she does. Let's go to Graham in Nauvoo, Illinois. Hi, you're on the air.
GRAHAMI'm on a journey myself. I'm kayaking the Mississippi River right now. And I'm somewhere between Nauvoo, Illinois and Keokuk, Iowa.
GRAHAMAnd I'm a thousand miles in. I've got about 30 or 40 -- well, 30 to 40 days left, depending on how many miles I want to do a day. But I was just saying how I started out with this -- about a dozen maps. The Department, The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources developed nine maps for the head waters, and that starts at Lake Itasca and goes to St. Paul. And then after that, the Army Corps of Engineers developed two maps for the upper and lower Mississippi. And those maps are huge and they weigh a lot. And I brought them with me, but they got wet. And, so I had to leave those behind.
GRAHAMAnd I had a hand held GPS, a Garmin, but I didn't like -- I didn't like how it worked, and I couldn't really figure it out. And it was kind of hard to see. It definitely wasn't as good as my Smartphone. So now I'm relying on my Smartphone. And that's good, you know, I can find out where I am, what cities are close by, if there's a restaurant on the water I can go and eat at. But, you know, the Army Corps of Engineer maps would have really helped to figure out where the really shallow areas -- I've been stuck in my kayak a couple times.
REHMGraham, are you traveling alone?
GRAHAMI am. I am.
REHMMust get, doesn't it get kind of lonely?
GRAHAMIt does. And, you know, I'll spend the night in a town or go to a restaurant and I just want to be around people. And then when I leave, I get -- I definitely get sad, but then after a couple of days of being on the water and camping by myself, I kind of get back into this animal like instinct where, all right, paddle, find a place to sleep, cook your food, go to bed. Wake up, do it all over again. So, I do realize when I spend a lot of -- spend time with people, I get kind of sad that I'm out here alone, so...
SACHSYou can just call in to Diane every day. Just check in with her.
REHMYes, you can do that. Well Graham, I wish you all success on your journey. I hope you continue to enjoy yourself. I thank you for calling. The one thing, David, that Google Maps can't show Graham is how deep the water is.
POGUEOh yes they can.
REHMOh, they can?
POGUEGoogle has now mapped the oceans and, by the way, the moon. So, Google is really on a quest to map everything there is that can be mapped.
REHMSo, if he were nearing shallow water...
POGUEYeah. So, I'm not sure about the small inlets and lakes, but they have mapped the ocean.
REHMExactly. Yeah. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Elizabeth, who's here in D.C. Hi, you're on the air.
ELIZABETHGood morning everybody. This is a wonderful show.
ELIZABETHThere are different kinds of people, as one of your guests pointed out, and different needs in mapping. I've been a map freak and a navigation freak my whole life. So I love maps in all forms. And the digital ones are great. But I just wanted to pass on some thoughts about travel planning, if you're taking just a typical road trip, and especially if you're not all that techy savvy. I think that traditional, foldable maps are indispensable and whenever I go on a road trip, I always have them in the car.
ELIZABETHAnd if it's multi-days, you know, I'll get it out at the hotel in the morning and look at it and visually imprint that in my mind. There's a wonderful website that I have to credit my sister for giving me the name -- called travelmath.com. And you can put in any two cities and it will give you a wide variety of data. Driving time, driving distance, et cetera. And sometimes it's just helpful, when you're old like I am, to know if I'm going from point A to point B, how many miles is it?
ELIZABETHSo I can think through how many stops I might want to make.
REHMRight. The other question, though, is are we -- are young people losing their ability to read maps? That would be something I would worry about.
SACHSI think we're all losing our instincts. They're just not sharp anymore. We just feel like they're atrophying, because we don't rely on them anymore. And I think it's good to sort of challenge yourself every so often to just put the phone down and just force yourself to find it, using the old fashioned way. Either maps or asking people.
REHMDavid, what do you think?
POGUEYes. There's no question. This conversation we're having today is a generational question, and 20 years from now, they'll listen to this broadcast and chuckle at how -- we're all like quaint and black and white and we move jerky. No, the map reading skill is going away, just as arithmetic in your head has gone away. Technology is accepted by the incoming generation. The older manual ways of doing things routinely disappear. And we can wring our hands and say that's a loss. And kids today aren't what we were, or we can realize that every generation is different.
POGUEThey have different strengths. For example, the incoming generation cares far more about the world, about the environment, about people, about the suffering than we did. Polls and studies have shown this. So, things are lost, but things are gained. Our parents clucked about us, too. You young kids, listen to the music you listen to. You've ruined music. This has been going on since the time of the cavemen. Technology marches on, generations change, but somehow we muddle through.
REHMLast word, Carl.
HOFFMANAnd there's always something lost.
REHMAlways something lost. Maybe it is we. Carl Hoffman. His new book is titled, "Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest For Primitive Art." Andrea Sachs is travel writer for The Washington Post. David Pogue is founder of Yahoo Tech. He is a monthly columnist for Scientific American and host of science shows on PBS's Nova. He's been a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning since 2002. Thank you all so much.
SACHSThank you. It was wonderful.
SACHSLet's go get lost.
REHMLet's go get lost. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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