Tag Archives: google maps
October 13, 2011

Where in the World Are You?

You really need to click here for a closer look!

Early on, on this round-the-world trip of ours, Oksana and I had a serious conversation about just dumping all our electronics gear — our laptops, our cameras, all the batteries and chargers; everything but our clothes — and continuing on without it.  It would have probably halved the weight of our bags, but more importantly, it would have freed us from the self-imposed responsibility of sharing everything online.  Believe it or not, the stress associated with posting new stuff to this blog or on Facebook and Twitter can, at times, detract from our trip.  The travel blogger’s dilemma: Any time spent blogging is time not spent traveling…

One of those pieces of electronics that’s been weighing us down is a handheld GPS unit made by Garmin.  Every day — every single day! — we start it up just before we walk out the door and let it track our progress wherever we go.  We selected this particular unit, a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, for its battery life.  Two AA batteries last around 25 hours.  At the end of every day, I save a GPS track.  When I have some spare time in front of the computer, I import them all into Google Earth, write up a brief summary of the day, and then combine everything in Google Maps for our website.

If you’ve been following the site, you know that we post a ton of photos, write something up from time to time, and post a video here and there.  If you’re really paying attention, you also know that we’ve been silently updating other parts of the site with much greater frequency.  (See: Our Recommended Tours page, our travel budget, and our “Where Are We?” page.)  Keeping up with this takes a huge amount of effort and is also a big reason why I haven’t written more blog entries or posted more videos on the site.

To stay motivated, I have to keep reassuring myself how cool it will be to have all this data at the end of our trip.  We’ll be able to dig into our budget and tell you exactly how much money we spent on, say, public restrooms in every country.  We’ll be able to recommend hotels for people traveling to the same destinations.  And we’ll be able to print out a wall-sized map of the world with our GPS track scrawled across it!

That’s what I wanted to show you today.  Google Maps is notoriously finicky about showing maps with huge tracks across them.  To reduce loading time, it usually breaks your map up into multiple pages, but every once in awhile, I’ve noticed that Google Maps displays my map in its entirety.  This time, when I saw all the tracks laid out before me, I made sure to zoom in, screencap everything, and stitch a big map back together in Photoshop.  There are still some problems with it (notice some of the gaps in the tracks — they’re actually there when you zoom in closer, but don’t display at this particular zoom level), but it’s a great representation of just how far we’ve gone in a 16 months or so.

Today, this map is pretty much blowing my mind.  We’ve traveled across the whole freakin’ planet!

June 12, 2009


Points of Interest in South America

When Oksana and I got serious about planning our year-long trip, I started bookmarking all the intriguing travel sites as I came across them.  I mean, of course, we’ll see the pyramids in Egypt, walk along the Great Wall of China, and visit the Taj Mahal… assuming we find ourselves wandering anywhere near those places, that is.  But what about those things that hardly anyone even knows about?  The fireflies of Thailand that blink in perfect synch, the starling congregations on Ot Moor, or the Darvaza crater in Turkmenistan?  The things you’ve never heard of are so easy to forget…

While we’re traveling, I want to try to update a map of our progress around the world.  Ideally, some combination of a GPS unit and the Google Maps API would automate the process for us, but at the very least, I’ll update the website myself just to let people know our current location.

This week, I’ve been playing with the Google Maps interface, just to see what I could whip up without any real work.  The results are pretty cool and I liked them enough to go ahead and create a new page on my website.  There’s a permanent button up above on my navigation bar, but here, let me make it easy; Check it out: Destinations.

It’s a good start; there are already a few dozen entries on the map, and I still haven’t quite depleted my store of travel bookmarks.  Go ahead, click around.  If your sense of wonder about the world is at all similar to mine, you’ll probably end up following a few of the handy links.

Already we’re visualizing how best we can use this map.  Oksana has recommended that we change the colors of the pins to green as we visit each site – a great idea that will very quickly show what we’re up to.  Also, as more pins are put on the map, I can’t help but notice when they start to cluster.  I imagine that whenever we face a fork in the road, we’ll take the path that travels towards the biggest group of pins!

If you have a minute, take a look at the map, down Argentina way.  See how we’re using different types of pins already?  We’re going to use the “person” icon to remind us where we should go to visit friends and family, the “film” icon to point towards our own video podcasts (I used the Transient Books video as an example), and the little “camera” icon to share the photos we take.  Google makes it easy to embed YouTube videos, image tags, etc.  This could be a pretty neat document when we’re done.

As I said, right now we have a couple dozen points of interest already saved on the map.  I’ve got enough ideas – mostly common one, but a few more  “off the beaten path” ones, too – to round out the first hundred or so, but I hope to have at least two or three hundred before we set off.  We don’t want to pass right by something cool just because we forgot to write it down!

If you’ve been somewhere really neat, heard of a place that sparked your imagination, or even if you simply come across something on the internet and it reminds you of our upcoming trip, please, please, please, send me a link!  I’d love to consider it for one of our Destinations!