Baixo Guandu, Brazil 16 Feb 07
Odometer 41,742 m 77,306 km

Technology is both a blessing and a curse. While it can promote your independence, it can just as easily enslave you. The trick is to differentiate between the truly useful and the merely seductive.

“This GPS thing is amazing,” the American motorcyclist gushed! “It can pin-point my exact location anywhere in the world!”

“And why on earth would I want to know that,” I chuckled, pun intended?

He recoiled, as though the answer was obvious, then quacked in disbelief, “Because you might get

“Precisely,” I calmly intoned. “I might.”
The beauty of getting lost--in Brazil.
A neo-Luddite I am not--I favor the appropriate use of technology--but I still cling to the notion that adventure itself is defined by the very ability to navigate on one’s own. I purposefully don’t use GPS, carry a phone, detailed maps or guidebooks, or even wear a watch. Yet remarkably, I’ve never been truly lost.

But the object of his infatuation, the Global Positioning System, is symbolic of a much larger issue: people are often irrationally risk-averse. They fear the unknown. They fear the unexpected. And most of all--they fear the

Taking a closer look at the aforementioned traveler’s checklist is illustrative. Not only does his cockpit sport the biggest GPS money can buy, so large it obscures his bike’s much more important speedometer, tachometer and status-indicator lamps, but his panniers overflow with small-scale maps and an entire library of Lonely Planet guidebooks. He procured evacuation insurance from a private jet service, in advance. His full-size, on-board computer includes video-conferencing gear. And he’s
never without his cell phone, on which he endlessly chitchats with family and friends back home as though he never left.

Maybe it’s just a difference in style. He believes he’s on the “adventure” of a lifetime and simply uses technology to reduce his exposure to possible harm, loss, or loneliness. Sounds reasonable. But I see no difference between what he’s doing and signing up for an all-inclusive cruise ship tour where all services are provided and nothing is left to chance.
A Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) in orbit far above the earth.
I prefer to allow serendipity some breathing room and would argue that these things add far more cost, weight, bulk, complexity, and risk of theft and breakage, than they add in value. Without them, you’re lighter and more nimble, it’s quicker to pack and unpack, and your experience is enriched by what you find rather than what you take along.

Risk, after all, is better managed by your wits. Knowledge weighs nothing, requires no batteries, can’t be stolen, and is much more adaptive than any bevy of gadgets. Though not for sale at the electronics store, it’s an insurance policy more valuable than any jet service can provide.

Still, problems will arise. Just because I’ve never been lost doesn’t mean I’ve always been where I wanted to be. But finding my way out has always proven to be at least as much fun as losing my way in. Striking up impromptu conversations in a foreign language as you claw your way back on route is the best way to meet the locals and one of the richest experiences travel can offer.

Maybe I’m just happier rambling lithely down the road in blissful ignorance. I don’t want a GPS telling me that I will arrive at my destination in precisely 3.52 hours at the current rate of speed. I chose this road because I don’t know where it leads--and I’m content to follow it for just as long as it takes me to get there.

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