Urban Exploration: Maptia Storytelling Theme 4

By Maptia, Co-founder Team Share

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?

We all become great explorers during our first few days in a new city, or a new love affair.
— Mignon McLaughlin

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.

At the end of this post you’ll find all the exciting details for our next Storytelling Theme—‘Festivals and Celebrations’. Contribute your story on Maptia by December 14th for the chance to be featured, but for now we hope your curiosity is piqued... it’s time to dive into the 26 stories of urban exploration below.

kyoto, maptia

1 | What I Love About Kyoto

6 min read · By Pico Iyer · Read this story on Maptia

As soon as night falls every day, I know that what I can see and understand is ringed by a much greater dark that represents, excitingly, all that I do not and will not ever know. The less you see of someone or somewhere, the more enticing they often are.

Acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel—the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. You can watch his wonderful ‘Where is Home’ TED talk or read his innerworld and outerworld journeys.

london, maptia

2 | Walking a Lap of the M25

9 min read · By Alastair Humphreys · Read this story on Maptia

Deep snow, wild camping, fence jumping, bacon butties, kebab shops, and a shopping trolley—walking a lap of the M25 turned out to be quite an adventure. Kindness and incredulity followed us in equal measure along the way.

Alastair Humphreys was voted National Geographic’s 2012 Adventure of the Year and is currently writing a new book about ‘Microadventures’. Read our previous Latitude Series Interview with Al or check out his new film ‘Into the Empty Quarter’. If you enjoy his story on Maptia be sure to drop him a line @Al_Humphreys to say thanks.


This was our goodbye to Battersea Power Station. We’ve given it a lot of love and attention over the years—watching the 5th November fireworks from the base of the chimneys four years in a row. Now we scaled the towering stacks to the top with ropes—it was both terrifying and wonderful.

Bradley L Garrett is a Social and Cultural Geographer at the University of Oxford. Alleged author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City which you can find here. Drop him a line @Goblinmerchant if you enjoyed his story.


4 | Lost and Found in London

6 min read · By Alanna Freeman · Read this story on Maptia

Dance down an alleyway, sidle along a side street; in London, there’s always something to see. A tantalising snippet of history or teasing taste of the creative spirit that bubbles up and bursts to create an ever-fresh backdrop to frantic city life.

Alanna Freeman officially caught the Travel bug in 2010 and has been wandering wondrously round the world on and off since then. Find more of her great writing at alannafreeman.com.

saigon, maptia

5 | Adventures in Motorcycle Taxis

8 min read · By Jodi Ettenberg · Read this story on Maptia

Weaving in between cars, whirring around crazed intersections, taking me to far-flung Districts with plenty to see along the way, I found myself looking forward to any opportunity to grab a ‘xe om’ motorcycle taxi in Saigon.

Jodi Ettenberg is an author, soup expert and former lawyer from Montreal, she has been eating her way around the world since 2008. Check out her book the Food Travelers’ Handbook, sign up for one of her upcoming food walks in Saigon or ask her pho soup related questions on Twitter @legalnomads.


6 | Saigon Streets

4 min read · By Matt Evans · Read this story on Maptia

Never a place for the faint-hearted, the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City can seem intimidating and dangerous to the pedestrian. The solution? Get your wits about you, get a crash helmet, and get on two wheels.

Peruse more of Matt’s whimsical and worldly adventures over on silkystories.com and if you are suitably impressed then feel free to engage with his abbreviated ramblings @mattyevans75.

rio de janeiro, maptia

7 | Cidade Maravilhosa?

6 min read · By Simon Buxton · Read this story on Maptia

Few cities can lay claim to the beauty, charm and allure of Rio. The landscape is lush and the locals can party. But Rio is, without question, a city divided. Whilst Ipanema beach and its residents distract at eye-level, favelas perched atop jungle peaks dominate the skyline.

Simon Buxton is a documentary and landscape photographer based in London and currently roving in Latin America. You can explore his breathtaking portfolio or browse through is phabletography collection.

mumbai, maptia

8 | Back to My Roots

6 min read · By Meraid Griffin · Read this story on Maptia

I traveled from Ireland to India with my mother and grandmother to meet my Indian family for the first time. It was 1981 and I had never been abroad until then.

Meraid Griffin is a freelance writer brought up on the West coast of Ireland. In 2010, she went cruising on a small sailing boat travelling from Arctic Norway to Brazil blogging her adventures at farawayvisions.com. You can get in touch with her on Twitter @farawayvisions.

kashgar, maptia

9 | Behind the Façade in Kashgar

7 min read · By David Noyes · Read this story on Maptia

From the weaving crowds of the famous Yengi Bazaar, with its sweet smoky odor of grilled mutton and cumin to the spirited negotiations of tough, weathered men in the livestock market, the ancient city of Kashgar remains a fascinating place—despite the heavy hand of change.

David Noyes is a photographer and travel writer who tells complicated stories about complicated places. He is also the founder of the innocent eyes project—an organisation that supports grassroots child education programs in developing countries. If you enjoyed his story you should drop David a line on Twitter @noyestravels.

maptia, masiphumelele township

Visiting a South African township by bicycle, where people and life and answers to questions are up close and personal.

Audrey and Dan have been travelling the world for 6 years. Check out their excellent TEDx talk, follow their travels at uncorneredmarket.com or say hi @umarket.

granada, maptia

11 | A Brush with Time in Granada

4 min read · By Cheri Lucas Rowlands · Read this story on Maptia

Musings on time, places and memories revisited, and the self that once was. Oftentimes, the most interesting trips are the ones in your mind.

Cheri is preoccupied with time, memory, and relationships in a digital world; the struggle between wanderlust and home; and the writing life. More of her thoughtful musings can be found at writingthroughthefog.com and you can always send her a note on Twitter @cherilucas.

washington, maptia

12 | After Dark in Washington DC

2 min read · By Ken Kaminesky · Read this story on Maptia

Capital cities are a total playground for photographers like me. I shot these photos after dark in a cold and windy Washington DC, just before Christmas. The light blanket of snow and multi coloured artificial lights added a rather magical element to the city.

Ken Kaminesky is a travel photographer and visual storyteller. You can see his remarkable photos and thoughtful writing over on blog.kenkaminesky.com or say hi to him on Twitter @KenKaminesky.

paris, maptia

13 | Springtime in Paris

4 min read · By Simon Boardman · Read this story on Maptia

Paris is full of wonderfully wide paths for meandering. This is doubly true in the snow when people are reluctant to venture beyond their maisonettes. Black and white photos really sum up the fantastic architecture, slightly scary driving and particularly Parisian mood for me.

Simon is a photographer and storyteller—you can find more of his wonderful weekend photography over at sboardman.co.uk.


14 | C’est la vie, Paris

4 min read · By Ardena Gonzalez · Read this story on Maptia

There was only a hunch. That’s it. But it gnawed at me, saying: “You need to leave your home town, get on a plane, train or bus headed for Paris, learn French and just see what happens. That was as far as I planned... The rest just happened.

Ardena contributes inspiring stories to awandererspath.com. If you enjoyed her Parisian post then be sure to let her know on Twitter @wanderers_path.

milan, maptia

Milan is a launchpad, in the eyes of an international student. It’s within range of several countries—why not see as much as possible, every weekend? And yet, this is the perspective of a non-conformist who set off to find adventure within his new home. Oh how misunderstood a cold city can be.

Ryan is a twenty-something writer in way over his head. He tries to find ways to stay on the good side of Lady Fortuna. If you enjoyed his serendipitous story be sure to drop him a line on Twitter @heyryanhess.

moscow, maptia

16 | Milling Through Moscow

9 min read · By Irene and Rick Butler · Read this story on Maptia

If we had only one word to describe this city, it would be “BIG”. From the population of over 11 million, to the imposing, magnificent buildings in the vast historic district, each taking up a city block, to the incredibly wide streets—everything in Moscow is dynamically huge!

Keep abreast of Irene and Rick’s most recent wanderings over on globaltrekkers.ca or say hi to Irene @globaltrekkers2 on Twitter.

old delhi, maptia

17 | Old Delhi Diaries

3 min read · By Namita Azad · Read this story on Maptia

The scent of the freshly picked marigold, the sounds of shop shutters opening, the swagger of the morning auto-commute, the chatter of the bargain and the lingering taste from the first cup of chai of the day. Good morning Old Delhi!

Namita Azad is a traveler by soul, a photographer by passion and a public-health advocate by mission. You could lose hours exploring her mesmerising photography portfolio or if you enjoyed her Delhi(cious) story drop her a note on Twitter @namzita.

udaipur, maptia

18 | Romancing the Royals...

3 min read · By Rohit Pansare · Read this story on Maptia

The city of lakes and Maharajas is the most ideal place to spend a weekend. In fact a single day is enough to walk through the entire city covering most of the landmarks, as I found out on one such wintry day of February...

Rohit Pansare is a Government employee who secretly blogs under the name of The White Rabbit and dreams to travel the world and document it through his stories and pictures. Say hi on Twitter @rpansare87.

istanbul, maptia

19 | Song of Istanbul

3 min read · By Diane Caldwell · Read this story on Maptia

The shouts, cries, clangs, bangs, whispers and warbles that make up the symphony of Istanbul.

Almost 9 years ago stifling sobs, and trying to swallow down the rock lodged in her throat, Diane Caldwell boarded a plane to Greece. She hasn’t been back to the States since and blogs at Dianewanderer.

hyderabad, dane johnson

20 | First Impressions of India

6 min read · By Dane Johnson · Read this story on Maptia

hyderabad, maptia, dane johnson

I wasn’t prepared for India. I arrived at the Hyderabad airport in the middle of the night without any familiar face to greet me. People told me to brace myself, saying it would be a shock in many ways. They were right. Within moments of landing, I found myself clinging on for dear life.

Dane Johnson is a storyteller and rambler currently participating in a new kind of school called the Experience Institute. You can read more about his adventures at ramblewithaplan.com or drop him a line on Twitter @ramblewithaplan.

venice, maptia

21 | My Favourite Tourist Trap

4 min read · By Mari Jamadi · Read this story on Maptia

Though Venice has all the makings of a tourist trap, there is still something quite beautiful and lovely about this city on water.

Casting off their current lives, Mari and Rick quit their jobs, unloaded their belongings and set off on an epic journey across the world. You can see their phenomenal photography and follow their migration route over at nomadic-habit.com.


22 | First Impressions of Venice

3 min read · By Adam Groffman · Read this story on Maptia

Venice is a city that instantly captures ones imagination.

In 2010 Adam quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and hit the road. You can follow his on-going indie adventures on travelsofadam.com or drop him a line on Twitter @travelsofadam.

quebec, maptia

23 | Quebec City in Color

4 min read · By Megan Eileen McDonough · Read this story on Maptia

Despite living in New York and being within hours of Canada, I had never traveled to Quebec. This all changed this past summer when I headed to the city to explore the innovative culinary scene and to catch a few shows at the Summer Festival.

Megan runs Bohemian Trails, a travel blog covering lifestyle trends, revamped neighbourhoods, colourful street art and innovative tech hubs. If you loved her Quebec story then drop her a line on Twitter @Bohemiantrails.

kiev, maptia

As an American traveling in a former republic of the Soviet Union, I confront misperceptions I didn’t realize I had.

Constantly curious, Stephanie is a traveler, teacher and freelance writer. Follow her misadventures at traveloops.com or drop her a line on Twitter @TravelOops.


25 | Jaipur: Settling into India

2 min read · By Holly Cave · Read this story on Maptia

Delhi had been a whirlwind week. It was only during my next stop, in the Pink City of Jaipur, that I started to surface from the colourful chaos and the culture shock to gulp back air and look at India with new eyes.

Holly is found travel blogging at traveleachday.com when not running a pub or writing about science—drop her a line on Twitter @hollycavetravel.

dublin, maptia

26 | There Is No Evidence

3 min read · By Ella Frances Sanders · Read this story on Maptia

I can’t be sure if I remember Ireland now. If I think of it kindly or whether my 6-week memories of its cold and uninviting landscapes have been distorted over time.

Ella is a writer out of necessity, and an illustrator by accident. Currently working on a book with real pages, you can peruse Ella’s mesmerising and delightful illustrations on ellafrancessanders.com. Ella is also working with us as our wonderful In-house Illustrator at Maptia. Say hi @ellafsanders.


You wouldn't want to deprive your twitter followers of these Urban Exploration stories—make their day and launch the stories into your Twittersphere here!

maptia, storytelling theme, festivals and celebrations

Festivals and Celebrations

Maptia Storytelling Theme 5


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.

The top stories for this theme will be featured on the Maptia Blog in a few weeks’ time—be sure to complete your stories on Maptia by December 14th for a chance to be featured.

For now, just a small group of founding storytellers are contributing to Maptia and we are only able to send a limited number of new invites each week. We don’t yet have the resources to cope with more, and are still working on the coding and design. However, if you have a story about a festival in mind, and absolutely can’t wait to get started, then send a 200-word snippet and photo to stories@maptia.com and we would love to shuffle your invite right to the front of the queue.


If you have made it through this reading list of urban stories why not take a look at a couple more of our most popular posts below:

Seven Steps to Becoming a Spontaneous Explorer of the World  Shed the heavy cloak of routine and invite chance to be your chaperon!

Places are Made of a Thousand Stories Every place is different, has its own distinct flavour, or rhythm of life.


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