When I was in eighth grade (or maybe it was seventh grade? I dunno, it was middle school) my school decided to have a geography bee instead of a spelling bee. I’m not sure exactly why, and I haven’t heard since of it happening (but maybe I just live under a rock or because spelling is worthy of ESPN coverage while geography is not).
Anyway, I won. I got a certificate, and a map of Europe that someone had pulled out of an issue of National Geographic. I was okay with that. I have a thing for maps (of all kinds).
I also had to take a test to see if I was smart enough to qualify for the state geography bee. I like geography, but this test was less “in which country can you find X river” and more “the X people are native to which province of Brazil”. I don’t know if Brazil is actually divided into provinces vs states or territories, I made that up (okay, I just Googled it and got it right — go me!), but I was a wee bit annoyed. To me, geography meant stuff you could see on maps (physical geography) including the things built by humans (cities, roads, etc) rather than the inhabitants and their communities and cultures (human geography — which in my mind is kinda starting to muddy the lines between geography and athropogy or history). But whatever. It wasn’t like I had a life goal of becoming a geography champion.
One of my favorite pasttimes is to loose myself in Google maps. I love discovering more details about how countries share borders (like how there’s a random little island of Germany surrounded by Switzerland) or remote places I didn’t realize people lived (like this or this — seriously, scroll out on Google maps to see how far away they are from other places) and even better to drag the little yellow guy into the map to see what it actually looks like to walk around in these places.
I will spend hours on Google maps looking around and discovering places I never knew about. Particularly islands. For some reason I like to look at tiny little islands to see if people live on them or if they have names — like this and this and this and this.
If I hear about any place on the news, I plug it into Google maps. If I’m driving to a new place, I look it up with street view. When I went to visit friends in London and Prague I visited their streets virtually first. I can’t explain why, but I liked knowing that Amy’s flat was on a steep street and Aimee’s flat ran next to the train lines; it made me so much more excited to go and see these places in person!
I love playing virtual tourist on Google maps with the street view. Did you know you can explore ruins in Israel? Stroll through India? Drive through the outback? Go Scuba Diving? Even have your little yellow dude turn into a penguin if you visit here? (Don’t look down at your shadow! Shh! Pretend you didn’t see that!)
Maybe if you can’t get away for a vacation then you’ll be encouraged to know that the weather isn’t always postcard perfect in some places and that everyone has to deal with construction. Of course, there are other views that you should stay away from before you do something with your credit card that your bank account will regret.
I’d love to visit these places in person one day. Until then, I’ll always have Google street view…
(Sorry, there was no point to this post, really, except to gush my love of maps out upon the internet. And use a lot of parentheses and links, apparently.)