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(Nerd Alert!) Buying A Wall Map of the World Helped Completely Change My Travel Perspective

Wait. You’re Really Writing An Article About Buying A Map? 

No. I never would have thought I would be writing an article about something so mildly rudimentary and unsuspecting as this. Trying to convince you of how much the simple act of buying a for realsies physical, tactile, takes-up-space real map of the world changed my life. But it’s true my friend. Buying a wall map of the world truly changed my perspective on travel, and it lit a flame under me to travel more—even selling all my belongings and going full nomad.

You know how you plan to do something for one or two reasons but then in hindsight, you realize the outcome is nothing like your initial intention? But in a good way? Yeah. It was totally like that. I can’t lie and tell you that buying a wall map of the world was based on some super genius, lofty or romantic notion. It was merely based on the thought…

Man, I’ve always wanted a big old map. And one would look pretty cool up on that there wall.

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So I went to my local map store and bought a pre-mounted National Geographic map of the world. (I highly suggest buying local if you have a good map shop, but if you want to go the Amazon route, here’s one just like mine, but bigger!) I put it up on the wall and added some pins.

Fast-forward 3-4 years to now. My travel perspective and the amount I’ve traveled since have truly been changed for the better. Hold on tight and I’ll give you a few reasons as to why, which I’ve totally over-thunk as per usual! And if my word isn’t enough, the comments over on YouTube seem to agree! 

Spoiler Alert: Adding Pins To A Real Map Of The World Just Might Humble You A Little Bit

That’s the first thing that happened to me. I bought little pins (like these) to go in my map in anticipation of pinning all of the amazing places I had been in my life! I got that map up and took to pinning all those places that I had been. I then stood back to bask in all my world traveler glory…

Yeah. Perspective walked through the door and swiftly kicked me in the kneecaps. Turns out I was clearly not as well-traveled as I thought I was!

This was the first time in my life that I was able to see just how few places in the world I had visited. How few places I had seen within my own country. For someone that knows without a doubt that empathy grows with traveling and meeting people of different cultures and circumstances, this was a bit of a bummer. This leads me to the next revelation I had…

national geographic real wall map of the world with pins

Your Phone Can Show You A Map, But It Can’t Show You The True Scale Like A Wall Map Of The World Can

I looked at the tiny army of pins implanted in the United States, and the solo troop stationed over in London. Another reality set in. Until this moment it had been way too long since I saw a map that gave me the true scale of the world. A map that not only put me in check on the size and scale of my state or country, but more importantly those things in relationship to the rest of the world.

I had fallen into the trap of allowing my phone or my computer to completely rewrite my perspective on the size of the world.

See, these are devices that allow us to drill down into the world indifferent to scale. We can zoom in all we want on a device to get down to the nitty-gritty detail of a place. Even check it out on street view. But this seems to sabotage actual understanding of the size of things in relationship to each other.

But something changed once I had a real map of the world in front of me. I was able to see the scale of everything I thought I understood about the size of the world in front of me. Comparing the size of the United States with North America, South America, Europe, etc., I finally started to understand things more.

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After Buying A Map Of The World…I’m Less Terrible At Geography

 For real. I don’t know when I lost my knowledge of the size of the world. In recent years it had gotten pretty bad! Admittedly, geography has never been my thing. For someone that loved the idea of traveling “someday”, I was terrible at geography.

Wanderlusting through articles of amazing places and dreaming of going, I would have had to learn more about where these places were, right? Not the case my friend.

Once I finally got a real map of the world in front of my ugly mug daily, I started noticing a change. I actually looked at it, in-depth, and started understanding where all of these amazing places are that I had been wanderlusting over for years!

I’ll take the dum-dum card and tell you…I had kind of forgotten about South America and just how big it was.

Yes. My brain had somehow tuned out a whole country, or at least glommed it together with the “well, I know it’s somewhere south” thought. For shame, I know. But I’m one of those folks that believe that understanding and acceptance of our faults or inadequacies is the beginning of overcoming them.

This was the beginning of my understanding of how little I truly understood about my physical place in the world.

Maps Are A Gateway Drug…To More Maps, Atlases, Books, Etc.

So I grew up on maps and they were a constant in our old Chevrolet Station Wagon. Good old, unwieldy, never-going-to-fold up-the-way-they’re-supposed-to-again, printed maps. And as an avid solo backcountry hiker, it’s kind of mandatory that I have a printed map on me when I venture out into the middle of nowhere. So I do own a pretty solid stash of National Geographic beer-proof…wait…I mean waterproof maps.

I’m no spring chicken, so “back when I was a kid…” we also had a Rand McNally road atlas in that old Chevy. But it’s been years since I had owned an actual printed road atlas.

Getting ready to embark on a massive road trip, I suddenly started jonesin’ for a good old road atlas. As I planned my drive from Charlotte, NC to Washington State, then South, then north, and back, I got to thinking.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a road atlas to mark up, old school with a highlighter, the route that I take over the next few months?

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Enter My New National Geographic Road Atlas…

I set out for my local map shop again and found my new Nat Geo Road Atlas “Adventure Edition” and fell in love. Not only an old-school atlas for me to take on the road, but this one is chock full of information on National Parks in North America. Yes, including Canada and Mexico. Bonus!

For two months I made a daily habit of tracking my route and writing in the dates with a pen. Essentially treating it like a journal—jotting little notes of my experiences at certain stops. Now I can look back and flip through it years down the road and reminisce. Oh. And when I got back home I went right back to my real wall map of the world and put different colored pins in to remind me of all the places I visited on that epic road trip!

Side note: A road atlas certainly came in handy when I was in the middle of nowhere and my phone had no signal or couldn’t pick me up on GPS. That happened a lot while I drove across the northern US!

Yellowstone National Park Day Guide

Maps Make A Great Gift! (And That Comes From A Guy Who Genuinely Dislikes Hallmark Holidays)

Truth be told, I don’t do the whole commercial, hallmark holiday gift-giving thing anymore. I feel like a lot of these “holidays” misconstrue their true meaning. Especially when it turns into a financially detrimental free-for-all. 

I feel that many folks are strapped financially and feel way to much pressure to meet the expectations society puts on them during these times. 

I’m all about grabbing a token for someone when you stumble upon something perfect for them. But just doing so because a date on the calendar says so is no longer my bag, baby.

That said, maps are an awesome gift when a gift is called for! Based on all of the perspective, excitement, and knowledge that mine have given me, I think giving a gift like that to someone you care for is on point.

I feel like a good gift should inspire someone in some way. Buying a wall map or giving the gift of a printed map or atlas, which encourages exploration, can totally do that. Especially if that person is inherently adventurous!

Getting around Mexico by bus

That’s how my new wall map of the world changed me. How will yours change you?

Clearly, this unsuspecting purchase changed my life and continues to do so. I sold my house, got rid of the majority of my belongings, and still one of the few things I kept is that wall map! Seriously. At this point, I own less than 2 square yards worth of belongings (outside of my Jeep), and that map is part of it all!

If you have one already, go comment on the youtube chain or over on facebook as to how it’s changed your perspective. If you don’t have one, consider getting one for you or your family and spending some time looking at it on the regular.

At the least, it will increase your wanderlust. But it could even change your life over the next few years, like mine did for me, and have you embarking on travels like you never imagined!

Cheers friend!

— Jason

Oh. If you want to see a few of the places I visited on that road trip, here’s just what I dove into at Yellowstone National Park! Norris Geyser Basin & Norris Junction, Old Faithful Geyser & Grand Prismatic Hot Springs Area, Mammoth Hot Springs Junction & Tower/Roosevelt Junction, Canyon Village Junction & Yellowstone Falls Area.

Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, Travel Guard, or TravelEx. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. 

Need more resources? Click here!


This site participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs and may earn from qualifying purchases. You’re never charged more, but it helps out little by little! Check out “Privacy” in the top menu if you need to know more!


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