Friday, March 12, 2010

Maps, they don't love you like I love you

Recently my parents found a photo of my first bedroom. In it was the crib I slept in when I was brought home from the hospital, and on the wall above the crib was a map.

"Ah... maybe that's where all of this began," my mom said.

Maybe she's right.

I do have a fascination with maps. There's something satisfying to me of seeing a place from above, and seeing how it connects to the places around it. When I first started traveling, I also discovered a satisfaction in being on the ground and seeing the shapes that I remembered from maps.

For the past few months, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time zooming through Google Earth and plotting interesting points on a Google Map of my own creation. With a quart-sized iced mocha within easy reach and keeping me energized, I dug through countless news and Wikipedia articles, tallying up places in the world where interesting things are taking place, and plotting those places on the map.

I looked at weather patterns and chose places that would be hot and reasonably dry during my travel dates, and I stuck to the southern hemisphere for the simple reason that I have never crossed the equator.

As the map took shape, three routes came to the forefront:
1) Haiti, Guyana, Suriname, Bolivia
2) Yemen, Somaliland, Madagascar
3) Sri Lanka, Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea
As I tallied up interesting issues, and as catastrophe, government warnings, and time limitations eliminated some of the options, I settled on route three, less Papua New Guinea.

View Possible Trips in a larger map

This evening, as I pack for this trip, I am downloading maps into my new GPS. I've printed out a stack of Google maps and plotted some of my Google maps points on the GPS and in my Lonely Planet books.

I'll make it to some of the points on my maps, and I will miss others. I'll be taking each day as it comes.

Over the next four weeks, I hope to post more maps, revealing the points of interest that caught my attention, and the interesting things that are happening in those places.