Mapping Your World Travels – Personalized World Traveler Map Giveaway
Travel is unquestionably one of the best ways to learn geography. Over my 25 years of college teaching, I have no doubt surprised many of my students—and distressed more than a few of their parents—by advising them to travel around the world, or at least to wander aimlessly for a spell in some distant destination, before heading off to graduate school or signing up for a job. Few actually do, but many, I suspect, eventually come to regret that decision. Later in life, obligations build up and schedules fill in, making the kind of leisurely, exploratory travel that pays the highest educational dividends a greater challenge. I have certainly never doubted my own decision to spend six months between college and graduate school traveling widely, without an itinerary, through Southeast Asia. I may have had the worst of times during that period, but I also had the best of times—-and I learned innumerable invaluable lessons about peoples, places, and life in general. As a result, I am disappointed that so few of my students opt for prolonged travel on a shoestring budget. In northern and much of central Europe, the wanderjahr is a much more firmly established tradition, and I think that the Germans and others who partake of such adventures benefit enormously from their experiences. But if travel is to yield its full potential geographical benefits, it should be thoroughly mapped. Aimless wandering can be wonderful, but it is always best to know where you are and to seek to understand how the different places that you visit or pass through fit together. Otherwise, specific locales often tend to blur together over time, reducing the educational benefits. I thus advise any would-be world travelers to always journey with a map in hand, and to retrace their steps on return, ideally by literally marking them out on a map of the appropriate scale. Such a marked map can prove very handy when one reminisces about one’s trips, reexamines old photographs, or even reads the news from the places visited. Plotting out past travels can also be highly useful for planning further adventures; if you can immediately see where you have been, it is easier to figure out where you should go next. Although rough-and-ready maps of past travels can be made on an ad hoc basis, there is much to be said for using products specifically designed for this purpose, especially if such maps are to be exhibited on a wall for all to see. As I also never tire of telling my students, a well-designed map should both convey information and provide aesthetic satisfaction. For those of us enthralled by geography, a good map is a thing of beauty as much as it is a mere depiction of data. One firm, MapYourTravels.com, specializes precisely in providing such handsome and markable maps suitable for hanging on any wall. MapYourTravels has devised its own system for recording where you have been, where you are planning to go, and where you dream of visiting. GeoCurrents is therefore pleased to begin running banners for the company on our website, which you will now see adorning the sidebar. In conjunction with the new banners, we are also happy to announce a contest for our readers, one that will allow the winner to receive a free world traveler wall map from MapYourTravels, complete with a personalized brass plaque that adorns the lower left corner. In so doing, we hope to raise awareness on the internet of both GeoCurrents and MapYourTravels, in addition to encouraging the more general practice of geographically aware travel and exploration.