Travel Map Overview
I like travelling, especially to new places. While most travel buffs have a TripAdvisor, Matador or similar digital travel maps with their “been there, going there…” pinned on the digital globe, I have made a very special one for myself. Special because it truly reflects my personal experiences seeing the world with my wife, my kids, my extended family, my friends, strangers-made-friends along the way, or just by myself. Special also because it is not digital, it is hand-drawn and therefore cannot be updated easily whenever I visit a new place.
Can you identify the places, landmarks, people, food and activities on my travel map? Do scroll through, enlarge the areas and see how many places you can identify. If we have been travel companions, you probably will remember or even appear on the map!
Fellow travel buffs will understand why we can spend hours staring at a map or Atlas. We scour the map like a big playbook or mind-map, to dream for unique destinations, routes or entire adventure opportunities. We hatch images, sounds and smells of our dreams on the map. But we dream just enough to allow for some twists and turns which will make the actual journey more exciting. I particularly like rural areas with colourful markets, festivals, homestay opportunities and spectacular sceneries. Lakes and rivers below high mountains usually thrive with unique lifestyles by the waterways. Homestays offer short interactive glimpses of how local people live. Even though at most homestays, we could not speak the host’s language nor they spoke English, we thoroughly enjoyed the interaction (part of the fun!). Communication truly transcends languages. In 2008, I had the pleasure to stay with a Berber family in the Rose Valley of Morocco’s Atlas mountains. At dinner time, the whole family and I sat on the carpeted floor, encircling a large pan of Tangine (rice with mutton) and we ate with our hands. Before and after dinner, the family’s youngest son would go around with a kettle of water and basin to let everyone wash our hands. I still remember the family members’ blue eyes sparkling under the dim light. The family didn’t want their photos to be taken, which made it even more special to draw the occasion on this map.
Throughout these travels, I’ve also learnt the world is actually as similar everywhere as it is different (so the saying goes: same same but different!). Some are more explainable, such as in modern day African cities, the infrastructure looks very much like those in Chinese cities! Some are less explainable: Have you ever noticed the similarities in traditional costumes between the Andean and Himalayan highlanders? They are two continents apart, separated by a huge Atlantic Ocean, yet the Peruvian and Tibetan highlanders bear strong similarities in their facial features, colourful costumes, braided hairs and even their festival mask dances.
In the next few blogs, I’ll write more detailed comparative snipplets about various aspects of my personal travel stories, such as homestays, markets, festivals, hiking, food, transport, accomodation and the many kind and interesting people we met. I’ll also accompany the snippets with some old photos for visual comparison of the places to ascertain the “same same but different” notion. Do come back again.
Here, I also play a bit of cheat. I have pinned two countries on my “going there” priority list – Iran and Cuba. Firstly because they will imminently undergo rapid changes, hence “more urgent” to pay them a visit; and secondly because it is so hard to update this hand-drawn map!