Never Leave Home Without This
They rather predictably state every journey begins with the first step but in truth any kind of slightly planned trip starts well before you lace up your boots.
For me it’s always conceived with a map, a trustworthy cartographic companion which contains more useful information than a thousand travel writers’ blogs.
In fact, a map I might chance upon, or idly pick up, can often decide where I end up going far more than any cut-price package tour advertisement or even a pal’s word of mouth.
For example, at one workplace I rescued a laminated and large-scale map, discarded in a corner of the Katherine Gorge in the Northern Territory.
It planted the seed of a travel idea which lay dormant with the rolled-up document in the basement until a chance to visit Darwin morphed it into a multi-day hike behind the gorge.
Without finding that the bulky map, which guided me on the solo expedition to some truly remarkable places, I would most likely never have gone.
There are many other examples where the caress of contour lines, the lure of pristine lakes, the sheer size of the scale and the fundamental beauty of a good map have triggered terrific trips.
I recently found in a street-corner library, where good-hearted folk leave excess, books, a collection of maps and a guide to hiking in the mighty Al Hajar mountains of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula.
I’d always wanted to go there and am now going to on a stop-over to Europe next year, really all because someone generously decided to leave the maps for someone else instead of throwing them away.
The only trouble is it’s easier to collect maps than to execute trips due to the usual issues around time and money. I have a formidable map of the whole of Canada and its Arctic Circle lands which cuts Australia down to size.
It’s made of felt and allows you to put pins in the places you want to visit such as a ride on the Polar Bear Express in Northern Ontario. But then there is Jasper National Park in Alberta and many other places worthy of seeing during their long summer evenings.
Finally, there’s a scratch map which allows you to remove the colouring of all the places you have visited. The trouble is when you look at the globe, however much you have travelled, there are always many other places to go.
So challenge yourself to get a good map, on paper NOT digital, and start exploring with the wonders of cartography before you even leave home.