As a born maximizer, I love my GPS: I like knowing the most efficient route to reach my destination.
But as I’ve gotten older (and wiser, I hope) I’ve realized there are more ways to measure efficiency than just speed and distance.
To illustrate: a story.
Once upon a time, I lived in the Chicago suburbs. Will and I thought long and hard about settling down in the Windy City after we got married.
We didn’t. The cost of living and brutal Chicago winters nudged us south, but a crucial third factor in my pro/con list was Roosevelt Road: a wide, strip-mall lined artery through Chicago’s western suburbs that I navigated regularly and hated with the fire of a thousand suns. (Or, perhaps, the fire of a thousand sputtering, exhaust-spewing engines.)
It was ugly, and slow, and ugly. I resented every minute I spent on that road, even if it was the fastest way to reach my destination.
(I suspect being an HSP was a factor.)
We ended up back in Louisville, where there’s a road that reminds me more and more of that dreaded Chicago thoroughfare with every passing year. (For the locals: Shelbyville Road. Shudder.)
I drove that road almost daily for years, until one day, undone by the weight of the burgeoning cell phone stores, and car dealerships, vast concrete parking lots, stoplights, and yet another Walgreens, I had a revelation: I could take the long way home.
I stopped driving the soul-sucking road that day. It’s been three years, and I haven’t looked back.
Unless my destination is actually on that horrible road, I don’t drive on it. Because time and gas are valuable resources, but so are my mental energy, my (generally) chipper attitude, and my patience with endless concrete landscapes.
A new project from Yahoo researchers aims to help pedestrians find the beautiful routes to their destinations, and not just the fastest ones. While distance is a factor, their algorithm also prioritizes finding routes that are “emotionally pleasant.”
On average, the beautiful routes are just 12 percent longer than the shortest ones: a price I’m happy to pay for a soul-filling route instead of a dreary one. (While they’re mapping pedestrian routes, and I’m in my vehicle, I’ve found driving a mere three blocks out of my way makes my own oft-traveled routes much more “emotionally pleasant.”)
As a maximizer, this strategy has its limits: when I’m traveling long distances, I take the interstate. But traveling a short distance out of my way—say, 12% or so—to prioritize beauty over speed is a small change that makes me much happier, on a daily basis.
I’ll sacrifice three minutes of my time for thirty minutes of “emotionally pleasant” travel any day.
I’d love to hear about the soul-sucking (or beautiful!) roads you travel and your own struggles with beauty vs. efficiency in comments.