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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Maps: their inspirational power

I seem to be more inspired to travel, and to think about travel, by the travel blogs I'm reading than by anything else these days. Anne at prêtàvoyager is a lover of maps like myself. On a recent post called You are Here she writes about a festival of mapping and a blog that collects maps among other things: "...maps that make you want to travel to a time and place that was well designed." The power of words to inspire! It struck me that in my quest to explore what inspires us to travel, I'd completely forgotten about maps. And yet maps are inspirational, aren't they? They're so much more than just a travel tool. I was surprised at how many intriguing blogs there are out there by people beguiled by maps, such as The Map Room, maphead and strange maps. As Anne suggests, the very design of a map inspires us to draw pictures of places we're yet to visit in our heads and evokes images of places we've been to in our memories. I recently spent a couple of hours with a map of Amsterdam for a guide I was working on. I was putting dots on the map to indicate points of interest and as I was doing so I was seeing the city's lovely leafy squares, cobblestone streets and tranquil canals in my mind. When I finished the task I felt as if I'd been to Amsterdam and that time spent with the map made me want to go again. As a child, during the five years we travelled around Australia in a caravan, I spent hours with my Jacaranda Junior World Atlas plotting out our journeys by torchlight from my top bunk. Maps inspired me to travel and to become a travel writer, yet I'd forgotten about the inspirational power of maps. Do maps inspire you to move?


Prêt à Voyager said...

Lara, you're too kind! I'm glad we can keep inspiring eachother. One day you'll have to do a "behind the scenes" post where you take pictures of your marked up maps and notes. I'd love a sneak peak of how you travel and put these books together!

Lara Dunston said...

Anne, you must be my muse! You've inspired me yet again! I'm heading off to Thailand on the 7th to update a guidebook... perhaps I'll do as you suggested and document my thoughts as we map along the way? Let's see how interesting and inspiring that might be.

Prêt à Voyager said...

Here's a link for you. Xander wrote a few comments on my blog today. He's based in Bangkok:

Anonymous said...

Lara! Gez, long time no write. Do you still have your hotmail email? Anyways, I just tried emailing you since I haven't heard from you in so long, then I googled you and boom, now you're a big travel writer!! You're amazing! I still want to see some movies you made but they're hard to find.

Thanks for the map links! Surprise, I'm a map lover too. I've been collecting scans and jpgs for a few years now. The ultimate map that I'm looking for is actually an animated world map showing the rise and fall of kingdoms, civilizations, governments over the entire course of human history. I have NEVER seen a flip book map do it well. Nobody ever has the complete info, they're always missing a civilization or group.

Anyways, I'm still in Temecula, hopefully my wife and I can visit you guys someday. I still want to take you up on that offer to tour UAE.

See ya
Eddie Hernandez

Lara Dunston said...

Eddie (Eduardo?) no, don't have the hotmail anymore - email me at - would love to hear from you!! - and would love to meet your wife! Didn't know you were a map lover! Totally agree with you! Email me!!!!

natcase said...

Lara: Thanks for the kind words on maphead. If you haven't seen it, one of the most famous articles in cartography circles about the evocativeness of maps is by the late John Harley: “The Map as Biography: thoughts on Ordnance Survey Map, Six-inch Sheet Devonshire CIX, SE, Newton Abbott”, The Map Collector 41 (1987):18-20. It's a little hard to track down, but an interesting read.

In your comment on my blog you wrote "I've never known of a cartographer to think about maps as you do. Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don't. I guess if more did, there would be more cartographers blogging about maps." Well, there are other cartographers (and people studying cartography) out there working on issues of evocativeness and other things I'm writing about, but mostly we're just too busy making maps to sit down and write about it... I've been pretty lax in writing since the spring; I just got back from the annual meeting of NACIS, the North American Cartographic Information Society, where those sorts of ideas get some play in the hospitality suite if nothing else!

Anyway, a pleasure to make you and your blog's acquaintance!