Where in the World Are You?

Posted by Arlo on Oct 13, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Travel

You really need to click here for a closer look!

Early on, on this round-the-world trip of ours, Oksana and I had a serious conversation about just dumping all our electronics gear — our laptops, our cameras, all the batteries and chargers; everything but our clothes — and continuing on without it.  It would have probably halved the weight of our bags, but more importantly, it would have freed us from the self-imposed responsibility of sharing everything online.  Believe it or not, the stress associated with posting new stuff to this blog or on Facebook and Twitter can, at times, detract from our trip.  The travel blogger’s dilemma: Any time spent blogging is time not spent traveling…

One of those pieces of electronics that’s been weighing us down is a handheld GPS unit made by Garmin.  Every day — every single day! — we start it up just before we walk out the door and let it track our progress wherever we go.  We selected this particular unit, a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, for its battery life.  Two AA batteries last around 25 hours.  At the end of every day, I save a GPS track.  When I have some spare time in front of the computer, I import them all into Google Earth, write up a brief summary of the day, and then combine everything in Google Maps for our website.

If you’ve been following the site, you know that we post a ton of photos, write something up from time to time, and post a video here and there.  If you’re really paying attention, you also know that we’ve been silently updating other parts of the site with much greater frequency.  (See: Our Recommended Tours page, our travel budget, and our “Where Are We?” page.)  Keeping up with this takes a huge amount of effort and is also a big reason why I haven’t written more blog entries or posted more videos on the site.

To stay motivated, I have to keep reassuring myself how cool it will be to have all this data at the end of our trip.  We’ll be able to dig into our budget and tell you exactly how much money we spent on, say, public restrooms in every country.  We’ll be able to recommend hotels for people traveling to the same destinations.  And we’ll be able to print out a wall-sized map of the world with our GPS track scrawled across it!

That’s what I wanted to show you today.  Google Maps is notoriously finicky about showing maps with huge tracks across them.  To reduce loading time, it usually breaks your map up into multiple pages, but every once in awhile, I’ve noticed that Google Maps displays my map in its entirety.  This time, when I saw all the tracks laid out before me, I made sure to zoom in, screencap everything, and stitch a big map back together in Photoshop.  There are still some problems with it (notice some of the gaps in the tracks — they’re actually there when you zoom in closer, but don’t display at this particular zoom level), but it’s a great representation of just how far we’ve gone in a 16 months or so.

Today, this map is pretty much blowing my mind.  We’ve traveled across the whole freakin’ planet!