“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.”
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.”