I remember discovering maps when I was about 5 years old. I think it coincided with discovering the weight, feel and smell of books, where I found these maps. For example, our copy of the Bible had on the inside cover a map of Canaan (erstwhile Palestine). I pored over this map, wondering at the odd names of places, and thought, “I want to read this book because it apparently takes place in this strange land with fascinating place names.” And the first page read, “In the beginning was the Word.”
This love of maps has never left me since. Geography was one of my favorite subjects in school. Half of my enthrallment to Tolkien’s magnum opus is due to the maps of Middle-Earth he left behind. (The other half is the languages of Middle-Earth.) And then came Google Maps.
There is nothing I love doing better than what I refer to as ‘googlemapstalking.’ Every place on this good earth is just a click away, complete with street names and, even more fascinating to me, names of metro stops (when it’s a big city I’m stalking). Everywhere I go, I obsessively commit to memory the names of various metro, bus or tram stops, squares, parks, neighborhoods. I haven’t really analyzed why I do this, but I guess I feel that by saying their names out loud or in my head, I claim these places as my own, and I relive the moments I spent there.
Anyhoo. How does googlemapstalking work? It allows me to plan itineraries for my future journeys and thereby get really excited. For instance, I look up Bruxelles, Belgium, and I see that Ghent and Antwerp are both only an hour away, so I plan to make time to visit both cities when I find myself in Bruxelles. Or I read about an obscure but picturesque village in central France, I find it on Google Maps, and then I discover that it’s very near to the Viaduct de Millau, which for some reason I’m dying to see, so I know that when I visit the region and cross the viaduct, I’ll also make a stop in said village. Call me crazy or nerdy (or both), but I find that immensely exciting.
How does my travel bucket list come into this? Well, let’s just say that Google Maps has been helping me feed the travel bug I picked up some 8 years ago, when I also started reading and learning about travel and compiling that lord mother of all lists. In the intervening time I have often been feeding the bug after midnight, and it’s turned into a monster with a gargantuan appetite. What it means is that I’ll have to present this list in several installments, because hey, nobody likes to-do lists which are over one page long, right?
The list is categorized by continent, but in the case of Europe it will have to be further subcategorized because there is just too much packed into it. I’m starting with North America, for no particular reason. If you feel there is some essential experience there I’ve left out, please leave a comment. Also, if I have categorized a place wrongly, feel free to correct me. So, here goes.
Seattle + Olympic National Park
San Francisco + Yosemite National Park
Mojave Desert + Las Vegas + Grand Canyon
New Orleans, Louisiana
Miami, Florida + the Everglades
Charlottesville, Virginia + Shenandoah National Park
Baltimore, Maryland + Annapolis
New York City + East Hampton
Providence, Rhode Island + Nantucket
Maine (in the fall)
Nova Scotia + Newfoundland + Labrador
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Wyoming – Yellowstone National Park