There’s just something about a map. All folded up, it appears somewhat insignificant. But open it up and it’s potential seems endless. Suddenly you have a city, a state, a country, or the world at your fingertips.

I’ve been hooked on maps for as long as I can remember. First, it was the National Geographic maps that arrived in the mailbox with the magazine. They offered up the world in technicolor and through them I discovered the historic places of the Middle East and Europe and the disappearing cultures of the Incas, Aztecs, and Apache.

From there, it was an easy jump to road maps. My mother might have been the real navigator on family road trips around Europe and the USA, but I was map ready. Sitting in the back seat, I would follow and trace our journeys on the map, more than willing to point out where we were or where we were going. For me, the highlight of each trip was how many new maps I scored at local tourist offices.

It’s a habit I’ve yet to grow out of. I am simply addicted to maps.

On recent trips I have tried to go high tech. I used MapQuest to help navigate my way through the Los Angeles freeways and Google Earth to determine the location of hotels in central Madrid. I even downloaded the NYC subway map onto my iPod. But in the end, it was the paper map that I turned to for direction.

Don’t get me wrong. I love having even more avenues to explore maps. Google Earth is great. So is MapQuest. The internet has opened up total map access. Anytime I want a map, all I have to do is click on a map store, a tourist office, or do a google search and the map will appear.

There are even dedicated map blogs to visit…

The Map Room

Strange Maps

Cartophilia

But it’s the paper maps that will travel with me. 

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.