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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A Map of the World

I’ve been trying to plan a trip this fall. Ten days to two weeks is all the time I can really spare but other than that I don’t have any other limiting factors. I don’t think I want to go anywhere in Latin America because I am planning my baseball trip to Cuba sometime early next year. In this, my time of indecision, I have been fervently studying maps.

I have a whole box of maps. Lots of road maps from every state, world maps, a road map of all of Europe, and lots of these great Michelin maps of individual European countries that I have driven around at one time or another. The Michelin maps are insanely well made and contain every road and goat path. They fold out into 4X4 feet squares—too big to open inside of your car. I have city maps, topographical maps of the mountains near my home; I even have a few sea charts. I like to know where I am at all times. I always can point to the general area of true north—not exactly a marketable skill these days but I am what I am.

I have a bound American road atlas that looks to be as old as the interstate highway system. It is terrifically dog-eared and has several cross-country trips behind it. Now it is folded open to my current state of residence, Washington. I am inspired by maps, inspired to travel new routes or to rediscover places I’ve been before. In fact, I would say that I am more interested in rediscovery than in trying new things. I don’t think that this means that I lack a sense of adventure; I think it means that I’m not promiscuous—I prefer to get to know a place than to have a casual affair and move on.

For me, I am better served with gaining an intimacy of a locale rather than having a brief encounter that I’ll soon forget and which will leave no mark upon me. I haven’t been to as many places as a lot of people but I would like to think that I know the places well that I have seen. I think that my psyche has been shaped by my fascination with the age of discovery. One of my greatest interests in reading are the great discoverers: Magellan, Columbus, Cook, Sir Richard Burton, and all of the others.

Like everyone born in the last century and since, I have been faced with the fact that there is nothing new to be discovered on this planet. I hate all of the attempts at denying this like the mountain climbers who want to be the first to scale such and such a peak. What a lame attempt at immortality! Face facts. If it hasn’t already been done you won’t get famous doing it now. All of the maps of the world have already been printed; you are just going where someone else has already been.

Where should I go? Maybe I should close my eyes and throw a dart at a map of the world.

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