“Consulting maps can diminish the wanderlust that they awaken, as the act of looking at them can replace the act of travel. But looking at maps is much more than an act of aesthetic replacement. Anyone who opens an atlas wants everything at once, without limits–the whole world. This longing will always be great, far greater than any satisfaction to be had by attaining what is desired. Give me an atlas over a guidebook any day. There is no more poetic book in the world.”
~ Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands
When I was young, my dad made a point to make sure I could read a map. He didn’t want me to be one of those women with no sense of direction. So when we got in the car for a roadtrip, usually quite early in the morning, and usually heading to Pittsburgh or Florida from Chicago, he would throw an atlas (you remember those–those books with nationwide and state maps in hard form) towards me in the backseat and say, “Okay, how do we get there?” And off I went, tracing routes with my fingers to guide our adventure.
But he didn’t stop there. When I would periodically wake up on these roadtrips, my dad would tell me where we were and inquire as to how long to a particular stop or how far until we had to change highways. While I am fairly confident he wouldn’t let me lead us to California instead of Florida, he wanted to make sure I could navigate, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I still have a Thomas Guide and atlas in my trunk.
Now, maps have a whole different meaning for me. Instead of practical, they are aspirational. A couple of months ago, I was working on a project and taking a few minutes to chat with the legal secretary (shout out to Jacq) re: travel. She told me about an attorney she used to work for. In his office, he had a huge, poster-size map of the world with pushpins in it signifying the places he had traveled. And he would consult the map when trying to figure out where to go next.
What a brilliant idea.
I have always been more visual in nature so this seemed so much better than just creating a list of countries I had visited or a checklist. So off to Amazon I went to order my supplies. I bought a Nat Geo map, cork board and pushpins to map out the world as I have seen it, thus far.
And here is my end result. Ignoring the recent attention to the skewed nature of the world map (as seen on West Wing), I will make a few observations about my personal map and what I have realized.
1. I am blessed beyond measure. First and foremost, this reality did not escape me. There are many people, especially in the US, who have never made it out of the country, either out of fear, lack of desire, or lack of resources. And some who have made it beyond our borders have limited it to a resort town in Mexico, or perhaps Canada. That really illuminates how fortunate I am to have been able to travel to so many places at such a young age. But, that being said…
2. I have a long way to go. Like a really long way to go. I have made it south of the Equator, but only once and there are so many places to the south that I want to explore. There is so much more culture that I want to explore and looking at that wide-open map put it all in perspective. The world is a big place and I have quite a ways to go.
3. My map is very left-skewed. Here, I don’t mean political or even ideological (Western versus Eastern world, although that holds true in this instance), I mean quite literal. My map has been–in the literal sense–confined to the left. Everywhere I have been is on the left side of the globe. My travel experiences have been very much centered around the Caribbean and the Americas (North, South and Latin/Central). Even the couple of places I have seen in Europe (Madrid, Spain and the Canary Islands) are even west of the Greenwich Meridian Time Line, more commonly known as the Prime Meridian. This definitely hit me as a shock… I never before realized that I have never been in the Eastern Hemisphere. Needless to say, this made me want to, in very short order, rectify that situation.
4. I have shaped some new goals. Notwithstanding the obvious goal just articulated, a visual depiction of my travel history has made me think about some new travel goals to embark upon in the near future. I had already been working on a travel goals blog post (be sure to look out for it coming soon), but this just added fuel to the fire. And, of course, there are some fantastic countries that I can’t wait to stick a pin in, like Thailand, Italy, Greece, South Africa, The Maldives and Argentina–to name several– but seeing it in tangible form somehow makes it seem more doable. And more strategic.
So off I go. It’s not a question of “if”; it’s a question of “when.”
Christine @MomsNCharge says
Wow, this definitely just inspired me to do the same. My map will definitely look a lot sadder, but I think this will give me the daily motivation I need to make moves. I absolutely love this idea. You should do a post on where you got your map and how you put your cork board situation together 😉
This is awesome! I think I’m inspired to buy a map for he family. I want my kids to know and understand the world and what better way to start.
This is a great idea! My husband and I definitely want to travel more once we pay off all our Student Loans so this is something we’re going to have to take a look at doing. Thanks for sharing.
Nice that your dad took the time to teach you about maps. I personally did not have much schooling about geography but as my desire to travel more grows, so does my interest in it and I like the idea of visualizing it, so I will definitely be borrowing it 😉
I think it’s a good idea to do a good amount of self-reflection. I encourage you to check out the right side of the globe as well! There is a rich history and lots of fun over here!
That is really awesome that you had that bonding experience with your father. I remember looking at maps and trying to figure out how to get some where. You have great goals! It is true we are blessed to have been anywhere for that matter, I know people who have never even been on a plane.
Your story about the map is awesome! I know my way around a map, but not in the organic and inspiring way that you do! I too, want to travel out of the country but have not been able to just due to lack of resources like you mentioned. But I believe that traveling is an important part of life, and I know someday I will be able to see the places I have always wanted to!
Go you! I love the visual. I may try and find one and do it. It will not only aspire me but my kids. Dont feel too bad. I have not hit the right side yet my self. My cut off is Africa 🙂 But WHEN you get there.. please do share 🙂
roni faida says
My mom showed me how to read a map when I was a kid, I remember it vividly because we were in San Francisco and driving as she was teaching me. I have map placemats! Maps are so cool.
This is cool. This is so funny because my dad made sure I knew how to read a map too. I love traveling and maps are inspiring
Vashti (VeePeeJay) says
I love traveling and I plan to do so much more of it this year! Mapping it all out is a great visual reminder to #SeeSomeWorld 🙂
Penny Struebig says
Very cool way to see where you’ve been (and where you might want to go.). I love that you recognize how blessed you are for getting to travel to some amazing places. Can’t wait to hear about your next adventure.
Travel can really be so enriching! I had my shares of travel too and it’s really nice to mark off one location after another on the list.
Love! Love the article, love the visual. I mapped out the United States in color for each of our family members once and mine has a gaping white spot in the southeast. I knew it, but seeing it in front of me made it so much more real. Working on that now.
Franc Ramon says
Travel can really be enriching. I had my shares of travel too and it’s really nice to tick off one location after another. There’s so much to explore.
Angela Christoper says
Love this idea! I wish I could travel the world in one year with my family, but I can’t afford it.
Reginia Cordell says
I’ve been traveled in middle east and US, but I would be glad if I’ll travel world with my love ones.
I am happy to say I am pretty lucky and have had the chance to travel the world! It’s seriously addicting. I could live my life just traveling the rest of my life and be absolutely happy!
Terri Beavers says
I would love to travel the world or even know how to read a map for that matter :). I look forward to future posts to see if you make it to Thailand, Italy, Greece, South Africa, The Maldives and Argentina. I hope you’ll share your photos if so.
michele d says
I haven’t travel the world but it really would be nice to do so one day. I’ve traveled within the US and the Caribbean but that’s about it.
Tammilee Tips says
This is an amazing idea! I need to try this out it is so much fun to see were you travel ours would be all over as well we are very blessed.
I love this idea! I love traveling and have plans to get to Europe soon, or rather in the next 5 years! I think i’m going to get a map too!
NADEEN WHITE says
I like not if but when! My mother traveled all over the world when I was growing up and she gave me a globe so I could look to see where she was going. I still have a globe on my desk and like you look at it as inspiration to place more dots on more continents!
Marie Moody says
I like traveling, but not far. I figure I’d rather explore my own country first and there’s so much here that I don’t think I’ll have time to go abroad & that’s fine with me. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful Post. Thank you.
That’s nice that your dad took time out to teach you how to read a map. I remember learning in school but my sense of direction is still just.awful.
Betsy @BPhotoArt.com says
I love maps. My parents made sure we knew how to read them as children, and we actually spent many hours drawing our own maps… be it for a treasure hunt or a realistic map of our neighborhood.
Joanne T Ferguson says
What a great post that brightened my day! I always enjoy learning something new!
Fi Ni Neachtain says
Really cool to make a map of your travels. Mine would only show spots within Europe, but that’s okay because I love Europe and all it’s culture 🙂
This is a great post, it reminds me of my childhood. My father was the same way. I plan to do a lot of traveling after my kids get out of High School!
Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says
I love your map and the observations that you have made from it. I too am very visual and I do not have a push pin map yet, but I have seriously been considering getting one. Happy journeys in the days, months, and years ahead!
Thanks for checking out my post, Mike! I thought it was such a cool idea– especially since I am visual– to map out my plans, literally. 🙂 Check back in a couple of weeks for my post on my travel goals and thanks for reading. ~T
Mike Moulton says
What a wonderful idea – traveling and experiencing other cultures is the fastest path, I think, to being a better human. Good luck on the travel planning, and keep us posted! Should you ever aspire to travel to Africa, let me know; my uncle teaches an exchange program in Nairobi roughly every year and has made some wonderful friends on the continent who love to show nice people their beautiful continent.