Experiment 11

Navigate without GPS

What does it involve?

Next time you are going somewhere new, take time to plan the journey with a physical map and refrain from using mapping apps to guide you there.

From batch 2 of our weekly series of Lab Tests

Each week we release two new experiments from the Digital Habit Lab, launching on Kickstarter later this year.

Read Lab Test 2 →
See all Lab Tests →

Why do it?

  • If we are navigating an area while constantly checking our phones then our heads are often down in the screen and we can miss the small things in our environment which can delight us and make us feel present.
  • Force yourself to take it slow—when we always know excatly where we are going then it's easier to do everything last minute as we know how long it will take. Setting off with just a map means you have to build in some contingency time and makes it easier to slow down and enjoy the journey.
  • You are more likely to need to stop and ask people for directions, and this can increase chances for serendipitous conversations and a feeling of connection with others.
  • We use a part of our brain called the Hippocampus for spatial memory and this helps us with the skill of navigation. Taxi drivers who have taken the knowledge have a larger than average Hippocampus because you can grow it like a muscle. Research has shown that heavy reliance on GPS can impact our spatial memory strategies.


  • Allow extra time for getting lost and asking for directions!
  • Experiment with different types of journey to take without GPS. Start small, but then build up to longer journeys out into the unknown.
  • Stay safe—always travel with someone else, or let others know what you are going ahead of time.