Nothing fires my imagination like a map. Even when I was a kid, I loved to look through my family’s enormous, weathered atlas. I recently picked up a book titled Moby Duck that is about a cargo of rubber ducky, bath toys that were lost at sea in 1992 and ended up floating all over the world. Some of the ducks traveled thousands of miles, over more than a decade. I feel something close to mystic dread when I think about those yellow, grinning toy ducks sliding down the side of an enormous Arctic storm driven wave. There is something about all that expansive water, all that space, that just overwhelms me. The book spends a lot of time discussing cartography and ocean currents and beach combers and toy manufacturers in China. It is just the sort of polyglot book that fascinates me. But it is the idea of maps that drew me to the book in the first place, the idea that where each florescent bath toy washed up on a beach was a pin some grand map that said a lot about randomness and the unknowable and the jolly absurdity of humans trying to make the world knowable by drawing birds-eye pictures of it.
The point is, I love a map. So imagine my excitement when a package I had recently ordered came padded inside with torn up maps. The maps were waded up to prevent the contents of the package (a map itself) from sliding around in the box. I spread the crumpled up map fragments out on a large table and began to examine them. The topographic lines of the border between Mexico and Guatemala like musical notation to my travel romanced mind. What a way to start a trip, I thought. Take this bit of map, mark it at random, then try to get there. Coincidence leading to coincidence leading to a real, first-class, tilting-at-windmills, adventure.
Maybe one day I will me able to make that trip. There is an endless list of places I would like to see. A list as long as your arm of places I would love to wake up in, smell the air of, wander their streets, feel the warmth of their sunshine on my face. Until I get to check another one of those places off of my list, I will make do with maps. Because something about the uniquely human urge to document and know a place with a map is similar to what makes me love to travel. Because somehow it feels like out there is where we all should be.