Mapping my Tracks Through Cities


In college, I developed a habit. Every time I went to a new large city, I’d try to find a free tourist map. Obviously, these maps are useful for finding your way around anyway, but they also became one of my most treasured souvenirs.

My map of NYC is nearly falling apart at the creases from having been folded and unfolded so many times. Each day after I got back from hiking around the sites and seeing the amazing landmarks of Manhattan, I’d take a black permanent marker and outline my route. This was before smart phones would do things like this for you on apps like Trackmywalk.

Now, I have a visual memory of everything I was able to do during the week I was there: the crazy detour we took through Tribeca on our way to Chinatown, wandering the city late at night after seeing the Blue Man Group, and obviously Central Park and Times Square. When I just try to think of the trip, my memories blur together, but when I look at the map, up on the wall of maps in my house, things come back to me as individual steps in the journey.

Some cities are only given a few lines of walking because I got the map on a day trip, but that still helps me remember simple days of visiting a brewery and a museum with someone I care about. Others are completely filled in: Madrid, in particular, got to the point where I’d criss-crossed almost every street in downtown over the 2 years that I lived there, and many of the streets of outlying neighborhoods as well.

I’d love to hear how you organize your travel memories so that you will remember them well; do you do anything with those free tourist maps after you are done with them? They aren’t as pretty as framed fancy map prints, but they certainly hold a lot of long-term memories for me.

13 Comments, RSS

  1. Cindy Anderson October 26, 2017 @ 1:40 pm

    My memories are stored in my head. I like to keep paper clutter to a minimum so a leftover map would never make it past the garbage can for me. I’m glad that they are important to you! To each his own! That’s what makes the world amazing! 😊

  2. Colin Begg October 26, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

    What a good idea. On our cruises we often end up with street maps and could do that.

  3. HyperchildChillmom October 26, 2017 @ 2:10 pm

    My daughter wants to travel, see the world. She is 17 and has already been to more places than I will ever be. She travels a lot in Canada with Cadets and whenever she goes somewhere she was getting flags. But the last few times she hasn’t been able to get any. She also gets pins and puts them in her wedge.
    I got her a map of New York, for that is the main place she wants to go, and she has big photography books of New York that she looks through.
    Now when she goes, she has a map on the world above her bed on the wall, she pins the places she has been, after she returns.
    I love your idea of marking maps. I’m sure it would help with the memories.
    I take a million photos, that is my way of recording any travelling I do!
    Love your posts
    Chill Mom

  4. jackcollier7 October 26, 2017 @ 3:19 pm

    I love maps. On my last road trip from California to Wyoming and back, (to see the total eclipse of the sun), I had the general road maps, which I obviously marked up. I also keep a journal of my road trips, (and other trips). Very treasured.<3 <3 I took just about 4,500 pictures on that trip. (to be honest the girl riding shotgun took most of the pictures.) <3 <3 😉

  5. ICanHazAdulting October 26, 2017 @ 5:56 pm

    When I was living in Japan, I realized that they sold little Hello Kitty keychains, where Kitty-chan was dressed up in an outfit for that was specific to the neighborhood, city, prefecture etc. For instance, the town I was living in was known for making miso, so Hello Kitty was dressed up in traditional miso making garb and stirring a little vat of miso!
    I started collecting them at every stop that I made so that I could keep track of all the places I visited. It was SO much fun. A little bulky (they’re sitting in a box in my storage unit) and probably not a great long term plan for travel but it remains one of my favorite memories of “mapping” my adventures.

  6. sportsdiva64 October 26, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

    Love this. I don’t save maps but those travel brochures from a city, I do save those. Thank God for Facebook . I keep memories of a place in Facebook albums.

  7. Kathy October 26, 2017 @ 7:03 pm

    A lot of people are making travel journals you might have heard of those? 🙂

  8. Tammy7711 October 26, 2017 @ 7:14 pm

    I love that Map! I love keeping my maps, although I’ve never really traveled out of the Caribbean before, but its great collecting them for future travels/memories! 🙌

  9. sebland October 26, 2017 @ 8:40 pm

    I like your marked up maps! I keep little journals, sometimes with watercolor sketches, sometimes just reflections on the day’s happenings. It’s such fun to revisit years later by reading through them.

  10. thepetiteexplorer October 26, 2017 @ 9:30 pm

    This is a beautiful way to record your journeys. I have just a book called Flaneuse which covers this! Worth a read!

  11. joylovestravel October 29, 2017 @ 8:52 am

    I love this idea – definitely going to start doing this.

  12. Polly White October 29, 2017 @ 11:48 am

    A fine aide-memoire. Thanks for sharing. Maps are great for planning a story, too. Before, I’ve laid the big map on the floor and physically taken a protagonists hand to try going a certain way. That was interesting giving results that I could backtrack on. Also, I’ve tried writing articles for ‘Just Back’ at the Telegraph. Never made it to press but I kept those articles anyway.

  13. blissfullycreating October 30, 2017 @ 8:37 am

    i love this!

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