9 02 2009


For as long as I can remember I have loved maps. Even before my wanderlust took hold, I was captivated by them so much so that while everyone else was heading for recess, I was in my element drawing them in geography class…with shading, labelling, texturing and different coloured pencils. At age 6. Yes, I was a sad child.


Once I started travelling, maps and atlases became an integral part of my wandering. I not only liked to know where I was going before I got there, but I liked to keep track of my progress and my whereabouts once there. And the more remote my travels, the more I liked following my course. A map showing the dotted-line off-road tracks and topographical features of a wilderness area remains particularly satisfying for my nerdish yearnings and I soon amassed a library of maps.


However, I also found that my maps served a genuine purpose beyond pleasing my anorak tendencies. I found that plotting my course on a map was actually a great and quick alternative to keeping a diary. My route could be marked, the places I stayed the night noted and the side-trips logged. This would then not only be a nice souvenir of my off-road peregrinations, but it was also a great way for me to later identify where I had taken my photographs.


And familiarity with my surroundings and landmarks meant that if I got lost during a late-night visit to the long-drop, I stood a better chance of finding my way back to the campsite without screaming in fear. In theory, at least.


I will admit that my fascination perhaps stretches a little beyond the normal, but I have always been rather surprised by travellers who take no interest at all in their routes or even their destinations.


A short while ago I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Toronto and found myself seated beside two university students on their way to Europe to learn Spanish for the summer. Their flights had them connecting to Madrid via Toronto, and their conversation went like this:


“Hey, so like, where’s Toronto any way?”


“I dunno. I think it’s on the east coast.”


“Near Boston?”


“Yeah. That sounds right.”


“What’s the time difference?”


“I dunno. Doesn’t it say on the ticket?  (looks at ticket) I think it must be 3 hours.”


“The same as New York.”




“So maybe it’s near New York.”


“Yeah. Or Baltimore.”


“Yeah. Baltimore.”


“I wonder if it’s in the in-flight magazine. Hey, here it is.”


“It’s an island?”


“Yeah. I didn’t know that.”


“Hmmm. An island. Cool.”


“Oh no, that’s a Lake….it’s not an island.”


Lake Ontario. Yeah. Not an island.”


“Is Toronto near Canada?”




Illustration and post by:  Simon Vaughan



One response

11 02 2009

Love your blog, this one hit home. I have a world map and globe to track my family in their travels worldwide, use a navigatore in my car, as I get lost easy and it’s fun to use. Many years ago, after seeing the film “Vacanze Romane” travelled to Italy with my cousin on a Guided Tour. Well, we read our Itinerary only after our trip started and a day at a time. Everything was a surprise and we had a great time. Thanks for bringing back that memory, Keep up the great work.

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