What Does My (Fill-in-the-Blank) Look Like?

Maps are a fascinating way to put visual explanation to vague placenames, directional references, and navigational descriptions in a way that is wonderfully simple and revealing. I have made posts about Google Maps and mind maps and this idea of creating through our actions maps throughout the city and spaces we traverse. However, as the semester draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to investigate my own Google Maps, to see what the places I have been look like from above. This wasn’t that complicated – the digital age allows me to save locations at the tap of a finger and I often star places on my Maps if I want to remember them or if I need to get to them. All it took was a couple screenshots and cropping, and I have My Maps.

Below are four maps, in a sort of pseudo-chronological order according to when they were used throughout the semester, beginning with my first out-of-Edinburgh trip to London and ending with a summation of Edinburgh places. I’ll take a moment to reflect on each on individually but the point here really is to muse on the shapes created by and distribution of the small yellow stars (My Saved Places, as Google would describe them), and imagine the paths taken between each one – that’s what I’m going to be doing!

My London. I spent a weekend in London in February. It was very brief – only Friday through Sunday – but I managed to get a good bit of walking and exploring in. The map above shows I at least thought about going to multiple museums, parks, and must-see destinations (whether I made it to all is certainly up for debate). This is a tourist’s map, telling me where I need to go and what I need to see to be able to satisfactorily say ‘I’ve seen London.’

My Wales. This map shows the locations I stayed each night as I made my way across Wales, as well as the places I thought about going before my itinerary for my week was set. It’s amusing to see the stars dotted across Wales, along Glyndwr’s Way – how far apart they are and the ambiguity of their connection. From this distance, it seems they have no connection at all; indeed, there were moments even on the trail where I wondered how I was to get from that day’s Point A to Point B. This is not a tourist’s map: it is a pilgrim’s map. The in-between space not defined on this map is where my journey happened.

My UK. This map shows the places in the UK (and a few in Ireland, but only those really related to travelling to/from the UK) I have been or desired to go. It’s interesting, this luxury of stepping so far back to see where I have (and have not) been. My trip across Wales stands out to me as the most clearly-defined path on the map, ironic in light of the map just before this one. I also see how my original desire to travel across the western isles of Scotland has not been realized. This is a student’s map – the map of someone who wishes to travel but has too much homework!

My Edinburgh. This is my Edinburgh. These are the places I’ve been or the references I’ve used to remember where I am or get to where I need to be. They are the places I know or wanted to know. Grocery stores, shops, tourist attractions, greenspaces, academic buildings – this is a small glimpse into my time at university here, the places I’ve been with friends and to which I hope to still go. It is a spatial journal, visually presented here for me to consider.

Whether travelling or not, this is a fascinating way to look at the spaces and places you go, have been, and will go to. Try it out! Google Maps can be a really fun tool if you use it to be so.


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