We cleaned out one of our vehicles recently and discovered some maps.  It was like stumbling across an elementary school report card or a lost photograph.

At one time, you could buy maps everywhere: gas stations, grocery stores, and convenience stores.  If you belonged to AAA and were going on a long car trip, they would not only give you all the required maps, but highlight the highways you needed to take. Today, maps are relegated to museums and antique shops.

Even fiftysomethings like the vegan spouse and myself are getting around without traditional maps.  Take, for example, our increasingly frequent trips to a place barely more than thirty miles away.


Like a lot of people who live in central Massachusetts, we need a reason to go to Boston.  We don’t wake up in the morning, and say, “Let’s go to a museum in Boston and check out some maps!”  Our reasons for going were work, sporting events, theatre, friends, medical, and concerts.

And when we went to Boston, we went by car.  We went in light or heavy traffic, in all kinds of weather, paid tolls, and paid a lot to park.  Sometimes we got to our destination with ease, but took forever finding our way out of the city.  We rarely got to the same venue the same way twice.

And then the vegan daughter moved to Boston for a year.

When you live in Boston, you don’t travel by car.  You use the Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority, better known as The T.  When we visited, we continued to drive to her apartment (60 to 90 minutes), parked at meters for up to half a day, and then walked or took the subway.  We each got our own Charlie card, a necessary thing for taking the T.  A new world was revealing itself to us.

After our daughter moved out of Boston, we decided we still wanted to go. We looked for events and places that would draw us there.  For a while, we continued to drive to the parking meters near her old apartment building and then took the train from there.  After one outing where we fought an inordinate amount of traffic just to get to our familiar subway stop, we figured there must be a better way.

Not that it was a big secret, but we realized that there are two different train routes that will take us to Boston after a mere fifteen minute car ride.  It takes roughly the same amount of time by train as it does by car, and, at times, it seems like the train barely gets going before it’s time for another stop.  But that doesn’t bother me one bit.

You don’t have to wonder where the traffic is  going to slow down or bottleneck completely.  You don’t have to worry about missing an exit or getting a speeding ticket.  You can even read or close your eyes.  I personally enjoy areas where the train runs parallel to the highway and I can look over at people driving their cars.  I smile at them, but I doubt if they are smiling back.

Because we’re now beholden to the train schedules,we often stay overnight in Boston and return the next morning.  We’ve found that the more we walk around the city, the more comfortable we are being there.  If you get momentarily confused on the sidewalk, you just stop and get your bearings.  If you’re in a car, fellow motorists are not usually sympathetic to your confusion.

But even in these technological times, the old ways of doing things still apply. On our most recent trip to Boston, we needed to pick up tickets at the box office of a place we’d never been.  We were kind of heading in the right direction but we weren’t sure.  Moments earlier we discovered that we were going north when we should have been going south.

And then we saw it.  Right in the middle of the sidewalk was a giant map, just like they used to have in shopping malls to tell you where all the stores are. We laughed, but it showed us exactly where to go.  But, when we tell the story to our daughter, we used an app on the phone.

What apps do you use for getting around?  Please leave a comment …