In mid-December last year, the three of us bid farewell to our unconventional home between cultures in the little village of Taghazout. We had grown attached to the gregarious Moroccan surfers, the generous Arabic-hollering vegetable sellers, and the amicable café owners... not to mention the charming and endlessly curious local cats and goats.
With our impractically-sized (but nonetheless lucky) globe and our folded canvas maps packed carefully away, we flew back home to England.
With the African chapter of our startup adventure concluded (at least for now), the curtains were drawn for a brief intermission as we rejuvenated (assisted by mince pies and mulled wine) with our family and friends over a wonderfully British Christmas. Rather predictably, January whooshed by and soon our bags (and our globe) were packed—we were back on the road again.
Before we knew it, we had landed in what was to be our new home...
We’re quietly chuffed to declare that since we launched Maptia last September, over 10 months of collective human time has been spent reading the stories crafted by our wonderful founding storytellers.
That roughly equates to 432,000 minutes—or more impressively, over 8 million nanocenturies—spent reading tales of hiking summits, hitting the open road, visiting magnificent world wonders, setting off on urban explorations, attending festive celebrations, and embarking on exotic culinary adventures. And what is perhaps more amazing is that our readers have so far hailed from 163 different countries around the world!
To mark the occasion, we have compiled a tremendous armchair adventure—a full circumnavigation of the globe taking you around the world in 80 stories.
Click on the link below to embark on this RTW Adventure...
Have you ever experienced a moment when you have tasted something and the world is changed—be it a transcendental bowl of pho soup or tasting kopi luwak, the world’s most infamous cup of coffee? Have you ever learnt the art of making sweet candies in rural Myanmar, foraged for rare truffle in secret English woods, or felt the roof of your mouth instantly explode with a searing spear of spice-induced heat?
“You have to taste a culture to understand it.”—Deborah Cater
Rick Steves once quipped that, ‘travel wallops our ethnocentricity’—stating that when you immerse yourself in an unfamiliar culture, you become aware that there are an infinite number of ways to orientate yourself on this lump of spinning space rock we call home. Without doubt, one of the most profound and transformative of these ‘whallopings’ can occur through the medium of food.
Taste speaks the truth. It creates momentary mouthfuls of exquisite epiphanies that thrust our senses into ecstatic parallel universes of unfathomable zesty and zingy dimensions. A foreign flavour opens up untrodden paths to explore the ‘terra incognita’ of our personal culinary cartographies. In the spirit of St. Augustine:
The world is not a book but a Smörgåsbord—and those who don’t travel, experience only one dish!
Click read more below and tuck in to all 20 mouthwatering narratives...
Have you ever experienced the sensory overload of Burning Man or watched cultural barriers disintegrate during Holi’s glorious human rainbow? Have you felt the magical effervescence and communal joy at the Thai Lantern festival, watched a procession during a penis festival in Japan, crashed an Uzbek wedding, or spent Christmas away from home baking in 36 degree heat?
“If you concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”—Paulo Coelho
Since the earliest days of humanity, festivals and celebrations have brought communities together—fostering traditions and forming an important part of our cultural heritage—yet in recent years we feel more connected to our iPhones and via the internet than each other. As as result the value of opportunities for meaningful, real-world connections with both family and strangers is greater than ever. Some celebrations can feel like stepping into dream-worlds in which cultural norms cease to apply, and for this reason, attending great festivals can feel like turning up the saturation on life.
Click on the link below to read all 21 stories and explore an interactive world map of festivals and celebrations from all corners of the globe.
Great books give our senses a workout. They make us laugh, cry and expand our emotional horizons, provide us with new perspectives, teach us about different realities, free us from feeling tranquillised with trivialities, and above all make us feel gloriously alive! Just in case your left-brain needs convincing—did you know that reading also keeps you mentally sharp, can chill you out and relieve stress, and can even increase your capacity for empathy...
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”—Dr. Suess
‘I already love books’, we hear you cry out. ‘But there are so many... I just don’t know where to start...’ —Ah ha! That is precisely why we have reached out to a few of our good friends with impeccable taste, and with their help, have compiled a short-list of thirteen somewhat under-appreciated but remarkable gems written in the last hundred years that deserve a place on your bookshelf for 2014.
Click through below to see the eclectic combination of 13 books we’ve gathered together.
Have you ever spiralled down into a disused tube station, feared for your well-being during an exhilarating ride on the backseat of a Vietnamese motorcycle or scaled a derelict chimney in London? Have you ever wandered through the perpetual flow of humans in a Mumbai market, felt the chaos resolve itself around you as dusk falls and lanterns alight in Kyoto, or found yourself wonderfully lost whilst meandering down a charming Milanese side-street?
The French have a wonderful word—flâneur—for someone who seeks to explore and understand the nature of a city’s landscape, usually by taking spontaneous adventures amidst the ebb and flow of life going on around them. In this week’s theme we invite you to lose yourself reading about the flâneur-esque adventures of Maptia’s streetwise connoisseurs and explore a myriad of cities through their eyes.
Click the read more button below to peruse the 26 curious tales of urban exploration that we have featured in this week’s theme.
Greetings future explorer of the world! In this post we will be introducing you to Spontaneity and his mischievous cousin Serendipity.* They have faithfully accompanied many great explorers throughout the ages and we can guarantee that befriending these two on the road is bound to lead to unexpected wayward adventures and happy coincidences.
Inspired by Guerrilla artist Keri Smith’s delightful book on ‘How To Be An Explorer of the World’ and also some of the wonderfully creative ideas listed in the Lonely Planet ‘Guide to Experimental Travel’, we have compiled a short, illustrated field guide with seven ideas that we hope will encourage you to succumb to your spontaneous urges, adopt a healthy caution against over-preparation, embrace serendipity, shed the heavy cloak of routine, chase down happenstance, and invite chance to be your chaperon as you follow in the footsteps of the three aforementioned Princes—Onward! ¡Vamos! Allons-y!
Click the read more link below to discover our illustrated guide.
Have you ever bathed in the ancient springs of Pamukkale? Woken to the unmistakable dawn chorus of the Amazonian wilderness? Followed an underwater kaleidoscopic rainbow of coral? Tasted the relentlessly dry heat of the Sahara Desert or dreamt of finding yourself face to face with a Komodo Dragon?
A few days ago in Wonders of the World: Part I we shared tales from ten astounding man-made wonders of the world, and through the stories in Part II we hope you enjoy exploring some of the remarkable natural beauty of our planet.
Click the read more link below to explore a map of the stories and discover six wonderful tales from our founding storytellers.
Have you ever stood, enveloped in the cool, morning mists of the Andean foothills, and watched the first rays of sun strike the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu? Have you ever felt the modern world melt away as you wander amongst the Pyramids of Giza, dwarfed by their audacious size? Have ever stopped in your tracks, your world arrested for a moment, as you experienced one of the wonders of our world for the first time?
Through the stories in Part I of this theme, we are sending you on a vicarious and colourful journey to experience 10 goliaths of human creation—via the diverse perspectives of our founding storytellers.
Click the read more link below to explore a beautiful map of our wondrous stories.
Have you ever felt the tug of the horizon, or been filled with a fierce desire to seek a life of freedom on the open road? Have you ever felt the rumble of cylinders or the squeeze in your thighs as your feet push the pedals? Have you ever left a million footprints behind you or pressed tire tracks into the dust of a faraway land? Have you ever turned the key in the ignition with only miles of unknown adventures ahead? Have you ever drawn a finish line that you barely believed you could reach?
For the twenty storytellers featured today in our ‘On the Road to Somewhere’ theme, the answer is a resounding yes. Together they have driven, cycled and walked across six continents — conveying themselves by car and motorbike, on bicycles, scooters and rickshaws, and even on foot. We (genuinely) calculated that these twenty journeys rack up enough cumulative miles travel to the moon and beyond.
Click the read more link below to explore a beautiful map of today’s theme, and to peruse the twenty featured stories themselves.
Have you ever marvelled at the scale and magnificence of those great, immoveable giants of nature, the mountains? Have you ever felt the cool caress of a snow-scented breeze from distant peaks, or seen the first long sun rays of dawn dispel shadows as light creeps up to heights? Have you ever lifted your eyes to a looming ridge and found a deep well of strength and resolve to take the next step upwards? Have you ever stumbled, half-delirious with fatigue and joy, onto a summit?
Today, for our inaugural Maptia Storytelling Theme, we bring to you the inspiring tales of thirteen mountainous adventures from all over the world.
Each of the featured stories touches on a different aspect of hiking, whether it is the mental and physical endurance required, the sublime feelings of insignificance evoked by the majestic surroundings, the relationships forged through adversity, or the jokes and laughter shared along the way.
Click the read more link below to explore a beautiful map of today’s theme, and to peruse the thirteen featured stories themselves.
Today we are delighted to announce that Maptia is officially launching! Here we share with you an illustrated guide to Maptia, the new storytelling platform on a mission to build the most inspirational map in the world. This post was written by Dorothy Sanders, Jonny Miller, and Dean Fischer, co-founders at Maptia. Illustrations by Ella Frances Sanders.
Maptia is a beautiful way to tell stories about places. It is a new platform designed for thoughtful, inspiring stories that make us want to get out there and explore the world, and each story has its own unique map.
A story could be big or small, a fleeting moment or the tale of a long journey. It could be about a place close to home or on the other side of the world. A story could be told by someone living just over the road or travelling many thousands of miles away. It could be told by you.
Today we are sharing version one of Maptia with the world. It is just a taster, an embryonic version of what we hope to build one day. Head over to our new homepage to check it out. There you will find some of the top stories contributed to Maptia so far, and you can also create your very own beautiful, typographical version of our manifesto.
Read on to learn more about what we are building, the philosophies behind storytelling on Maptia, and our vision for the future.
Over the past six months we have featured an eclectic mix of 47 memorable travel or life moments from places all over the world. Some have been inspiring or uplifting, others have made us want to grab our backpacks and head for the open road, some have made us laugh, and in a few cases some have nearly brought us to tears. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this wonderful project.
Maptia moment submissions are now closed, but we wanted to end on a high and leave you with the final twelve moments that have found their way to the Maptia HQ from all over the globe.
"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." - Anaïs Nin
Click below to read the last Maptia moments and see the maps we have created for them...
Ed Stafford is a man who doesn't like to quit. In 2008 Ed set himself the audacious goal of being the first man to walk the length of the Amazon from sea to source. A mere 860 days later he returned home safe and sound with a well earned National Geographic's adventurer of the year award and a story to tell the grandchildren. You can read his story in his excellent 'Walking the Amazon' book. More recently Ed spent 60 days on the Fijian island of Olorua, completely alone and with nothing to help him.
Ed, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the Latitude Series! Let’s launch straight in... When did the outrageous idea of walking the entire length of the Amazon first plant itself in your mind? What triggered the 180 degree turn from almost becoming a city stockbroker to spending over two years of your life following the planet’s most epic river for over 4,000 miles from source to sea? Was there one crazy, wild moment of complete commitment, or did the idea for your record-breaking expedition capture your imagination over time?
Thanks Jonny. It had started as a pipe dream - an idea that I never thought would come to anything. I was living and running expeditions in Argentine Patagonia and longing to return to a hotter environment - the jungle. People would ask me how long I thought it would take and I would laugh and say, "Who cares! Wouldn't it be a fantastic adventure!?"
Click below to read the full interview...
We believe that places are like people and that each has a unique personality. A defining and often delightful aspect of each place’s personality is the way in which time is understood, measured and perceived by the people who live there. Cross the globe and you will encounter many different rhythms of life - some slow, some frantic, some chaotic and changeable, some melodic and rich, and just a few where time goes by entirely untracked.
Many farmers use the subtle variations in seasonal weather patterns to measure the passing of time, while others’ religious beliefs can lead them to live their lives according to the waxing and waning of the moon, and some seafarers still track the time using the predictable arc of the sun, the stars and the moon. Each different culture and place has its own subtle melody and pace of life - time is experienced differently around the world.
When you listen to music, your heart-rate will often subconsciously adjust to the beat and tempo of the song. Likewise, if you spend long enough in a place that has a relaxed way of life, your own internal metronome will adjust to a much slower rhythm. This is one of travel’s less tangible yet more profound experiences - to come to understand and appreciate the way another culture uses time. Some are appreciative and take a meditative approach, while others are afraid that it is simply running away from them.
Click on the link below to read the post in full:
This is the first post in a two-part series on the cartographies of time. Here, we explore one of the most fundamental assumptions in recent Western civilisation - our perception and measurement of time. We ask where it came from, how it affects the way we live our lives and the role travel has to play in the way we experience time. Part two will trace a handful of unique temporal footprints from different places and cultures around the world.
Travel has a wonderful tendency to make you question your assumptions, from the foods you thought you liked to the way you measure time. It can cause you to question your whole way of life, your morals, your beliefs, the things that really matter to you, and even your purpose here on this planet. Your life is thrown into stark relief by what you see other cultures doing around you and by the unfamiliar experiences you have while on the road. Occasional epiphanies will cause you to realise that the complete opposite of a previously held conviction is true.
If we keep an open mind, travel allows us to imagine ourselves in someone else's shoes, feel what others feel, and understand what shapes people’s world view in other cultures. Psychologists refer to this as ‘cognitive empathy’, which essentially means relating to and having compassion for other human experiences and beliefs. Here at Maptia, we think that collecting stories, fresh perspectives on the world, and an understanding of the nuanced differences between cultures is far more rewarding than collecting souvenirs.
Today we live in a world where we can step into steel-winged cylinders and fly to the other side of the planet. This is incredible, but a side effect of all this efficiency in travel can be to sterilise a sense of adventure. Like entering a cheat code in a computer game, arriving with modern transportation methods can leave you feeling that it was a little too easy.
Enter The Adventurists
The Adventurists have been Britain’s primary exporter of old-school tomfoolery and reckless expeditions for the past decade. Unlike your more traditional adventure tour providers, they proudly operate at the ‘very blunt cutting edge of stupidity’ and are relentlessly fighting to ‘make the world less boring’.
Their founder, a gentleman with a trademark old-school adventure swagger is known only as Mr Tom, has previously admitted that he has a tendency to come up with plans ‘on the wrong side of stupid’. So in order to test the water (or ice) they formed ‘the institute of adventure research’ - a team of brave lemming adventurers who test out future ideas. Here we tell you more about the six expeditions that have made it through their dubious filters so far.
Our lovely intern Ella has also created a beautiful map to pay tribute to The Adventurists crazy expeditions that crisscross the globe each year. Read on to explore the map.
From sketches on the back of a napkin to beautiful hand-illustrated posters, subjective and personal maps often convey the emotions and quirks of places much better than maps that aim for an accurate and objective portrayal of the world. Most maps are designed so that you can find your way and view the world as it is, but sometimes the most delightful and interesting maps are created when we use them to tell stories of the the world as it isn't.
With this in mind, today we are starting a new hand-drawn maps project called 'The World As It Isn't' to explore and collect people's unique perspectives on the places they know and love.
Read on to see the Maptia team's hand-drawn map of where we live and work in Morocco and find out how you can contribute your own map.
Only just over a decade ago the idea that anyone, anywhere, could publish for a global audience was a still a pretty radical concept. Today the Internet is bursting at the seams with content and still it continues to grow at a voracious rate. Some of this content is memorable, some of it is newsworthy, some of it is inspiring, much of it is mediocre, and a huge amount of it is probably not worth our time to sift through. What's more, the growing perception that 'virality' is the holy grail for content combined with the sheer volume of blogs, articles, stories, photos, and videos being posted means that the truly thoughtful and meaningful content is often lost in the noise.
Medium is a new publishing platform that is attempting to tackle this problem. We have very much enjoyed perusing the remarkable selection of authentic and interesting content on Medium over the last few weeks and thought we would share some of our favourite stories, posts, and articles in a curated reading list here on our blog.
The 34 posts we have chosen range from personal contemplations on the act of travel and heartfelt stories from 9-5 escapees, to predictions on the future of photography and ruminations on the role of cartography in the 21st century. Kudos to all the writers who have done a fantastic job on these posts.
Click here or below to see the full list of posts.
From stone-age cave drawings and ancient wafer thin papyrus transcripts, to the painstakingly detailed and hand-drawn maps of the Age of Exploration and right up until the present day, mankind has used maps to make sense of the world, and to 'codify the miracle of existence' as Nicolas Crane once eloquently wrote.
In this smartphone-saturated world we live in, we often think of maps as being synonymous with the road-and-place-name geography that we use for directions. It's easy to forget that even these hyper realistic maps are still abstractions of reality, illusions perpetrating to be objective representations of the world in which we are the central flashing blue dot.
Yet there is a whole world of maps (excuse the pun) which fall outside this narrow definition of what a map should be. At their best, maps allow us to grasp more tangibly at places, sights, sounds and even smells that would otherwise exist only tenuously within our minds and imaginations, and that maps have the power to evoke a sense curiosity, challenge you to question the boundaries and horizons of your small slice of this world, and awake in you an insatiable desire to explore the Earth.
Our favourite maps, like stories, are shamelessly subjective and these maps can be a boundless source of inspiration, delight and creativity. Read on to peruse some beautiful examples of modern day interpretations of the map.