mini globe decor
Study Hall: Essays On Travel, Travel U for Kids

Maps 101: Strategies and Explorations

As a modern traveler, I am constantly working at paring my luggage down to the minimum without losing the comforts of home. It’s true that no one ever says that they wished they had brought more from home! The past few years have given us quite a lot of technological solutions and I readily take advantage of them! From go pros to travel apps, the choices seem endless these days! There is one app that has me taking a step back though- digital maps.

I know, I know! How could THAT be the app I have issues with? Well, it’s not because they’ve gotten me lost. Digital maps have gotten me from point A to point B all over the world. I just miss the art of opening a map and exploring. Imagine finding your hotel on a well drawn map and tracing your fingers through the old town streets of some famous capitol discovering shops and restaurants along the way. I’ve discovered secret churches with priceless art or smaller museums that no one has mentioned in years. I miss that.

Brain Food.

More importantly, my brain misses that. Believe it or not, our brains are the very first virtual map! Each time you look at an unfolded map, it builds more geographical knowledge which, in turn, helps you have a better sense of direction and space. Unfortunately, digital map apps don’t provide this service because it’s almost impossible to see any detail of a larger area on your screen. Research has shown that digital directions actually prevent you from fully immersing yourself into a culture that you’ve just spent time, money, and effort arranging to see. I know what you’re thinking! It sounds like I’m saying, “drop the phone open the map on the Royal Mile and make sure everyone knows you are the new kid in town screaming please pick pocket me!”

person wearing beige sweater holding map inside vehicle
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

Way back when…

When we think of maps, I guess a lot of us remember those big rollaway maps in our elementary school classrooms. You know the kind, they made a whizzing sound coming down which always signaled either immense boredom or intense curiosity. It was a roll of the dice. There was something about the colors and shapes that seemed to make a young mind wonder- or maybe wander, which was certainly my case!

My love for maps extended well beyond the classroom. I loved any kind of map I could get my hands on. Globes, atlases, the tricky fold out ones, theme park maps, museum maps, the Great Adventure Safari map, the New York City mass transit map; it truly didn’t matter. And I always learned something from those maps. For example, I remember discovering that American highways actually have a grid system that helps you know where you are, the lower the highway number, I 10, for example, the further south or west you were.

via GIPHY

Another young discovery of mine is that all of the light posts in Central Park have a location marker on them that you can follow or use a map to plan with. I spent countless hours in the car with a Rand McNally atlas learning exits and town names and tracing red, blue and black roadways with my fingers. I admit it, I’m a map junkie.

As a teacher, my absolute favorite activity that I ever got to do was rent one of the world’s largest maps of Europe from National Geographic. My first graders and I kicked off our shoes and went exploring. We measured countries we had literature circles around England, we plotted a road trip from Germany to Italy using robots. We matched landmarks with countries. It was so much fun! Maps create a serious sense of logic out of what can seem like total chaos. They give order to our place on earth and help young minds start to see geographic connections as never before. Maps cater to both the linguist’s and mathematician’s mind set. They speak to current events and history. They restore order to nature as man interferes. Maps are the total package.

As a mom, I always seemed to be stuffing a map into my kids’ hands. Whether it was Disney or the Tokyo train system they go a map. Lead the way! My mother loves to tell a story about how my daughter, who was about 8 at the time, was able to take her to the Big Buddha while we were living in Japan. It took about 3 train transfers and you had to know how to walk through a department store to catch one of those transfers. My daughter had no problem. She totally had it down thanks to maps.

crop person choosing route near map
Photo by Enric Cruz López on Pexels.com

So, take out some maps! Have a treasure hunt, plot a trip using public transportation (which is completely underused in our country) and fall in love with maps! There is no doubt that maps contribute to being globally literate.

Recently, I was walking with my mom in old town Brussels. We were just taking in the scene and window shopping. Walking along, I saw a store window that I fell in love with. And if you’ve been following our page, it might look familiar. So, are you a map junkie like me? I hope so…

What’s a map explorer to do?

I actually think that there is a better (and safer) compromise. Build your brain’s map by exploring all of those maps at home before you take off to your destination. Get a sense of where everything is, how long it takes to get from place to place? What landmarks are along the way, which neighborhoods are worth a look (and which to avoid!) Throw an atlas in the back seat of your car for your road trip.

Krakow from the air! Maps can be the key to any travel success.

Let the kids figure out the national highway numbering system. How do the exits tell you how much further it is to the state line? Take the time to get your bearings and build your map. Then, grab that phone and use it when you need to. I bet it won’t be as often as you think! And if you are not tethered to your screen in directional nervousness, you might look up. You’ll experience more of what you came looking for. A small park, a good falafel stand, a pretty lane, a talented street busker…. the small moments that turn any trip from good to great.

The Verdict.

I can’t say that I will trade in my google maps for a paper map while I’m out and about but I do think that those old school maps have a place in the travel process. Looking at maps laid out on a table does evoke a certain sense of nostalgia doesn’t it? I mean there really is an anticipated delight in finding something new as you connect your list of travel plans to their location. So, invest in the time to explore, it worked for hundreds of years and it still does today. Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Travel U for Kids

Travel U Library: Lovely London

Sharing stories from around the world is an amazing gift to give any child. Putting the world in a young mind’s hands is one of the best ways to create productive, understanding adults. Books like this allow readers to develop life skills like empathy, cultural understanding, and a global sense of self. Let’s dig in to books about London!

London icons
Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

TGC strives to connect travelers with quality literature and media that allows the curiosity in all of us to thrive. More importantly, the most powerful tool we have to be the best travelers we can be, regardless of our age, is gobal literacy. So, for more great reads and connections to travel and culture, click hereNote that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Mary Poppins

Full disclosure: I am not promoting an unnamed recently released movie. I am, however, promoting a fantastic piece of literature that will certainly promote your lexicon! P.L. Travers’ epitome of literary perfection is Mary Poppins. I know, I know, you saw the movie and it was delightful but, folks, the movie is just the tip of the iceberg! Trust me when I say that the movie is only half of Mary’s charm.

Travers books are in-depth, thoughtful, smartly written with a timelessness that needs enjoyment as well as effort. Travers dives deep into Edwardian England and gives one a sense of historical understanding. This book is the perfect read aloud for young imaginations or an addictive bedtime read for the older set. So, go beyond the Jolly Holiday and put away the sugar because a spoonful of the one and only Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way! For more on a perfect Mary Poppins Tour of London, click here.

London City Trails

Straight from the publishers of some of the best travel guides for children comes London City Trails. This book, great for your older explorers, has over 15 walking tours themed for every interest a kid could dream up! From crown jewels to fancy parks, this book covers England’s capital covered. The pages are designed to explore all aspects of culture and get your kids excited about visiting this amazing place.

101 Dalmatians

Did you think that this story was a creation of Disney? Me Too! But, it turns out, that this British classic is so much more than the enchanting movie. Join original author Dodie Smith as she develops the rescue of all those spots from the dastardly Cruella DeVil. Included in this 2-books-in-one volume, is a second book about Pongo and Perdita as they explore the city. With chapters about the National Gallery and Trafalger Square, this classic is perfect!

Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone

What more do I need to say? Harry’s story is a sensation for a reason but, ask any Potterhead and they will tell you “don’t rely on the movie!” The book really is that much better. In the first of the series, Harry must head into London to get his school supplies and catch the train. J.K Rowling’s writing brings the city alive in the imagination of all who read it! There are many tours available that are themed for the devotees of the wizarding world. Just remember, read the book first!!

Katie In London

Katie and little Jack befriend one of the lions in Trafalger Square. It turns out the the lion is an EXCELLENT tour guide! He brings the children on an adventure across the big city and makes it more accessible to their young minds. This pick is perfect for those little ones who may need a bit of support in new spaces and for those adventurers who are ready to take on the next challenge in equal measure.

Will’s Quill

Shakespeare needs some help! and he finds it in an unlikely source. Introduce your kiddos to the bard through this clever English Classic that is designed to fill in a little information about his life in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Henry, The Queen’s Corgi

What happens when a clever corgi becomes the center of a royal mix-up? Check in with Henry who is always conjuring up another plan winds up with a VIP pass to the plushest palace in town. But how will he get back to his true family?

Winnie The Pooh

Half way to the coast as you go southbound from London is Ashford Forest. This is home to the famous 100 Acre Wood of Winnie-The-Pooh fame. Don’t be fooled, long before Pooh bear and his friends were in nurseries, the classic by A.A. Milne is meant for much older kids who can grasp the imagination of Christopher Robin. As with most quality children’s literature, it’s perfect reading for every age!

The Queen’s Hat

The wind has taken hold of the Queen’s very favorite hat! All of the Beef Eaters come to her aid and chase the royal hat all over town. Perfect to start introducing royalty and London’s icons

This Is London

If there were one book that started the travel literature craze for kids. this is it. From the “This Is” series, take a look at every London icon out there and explore this very big city before you touch down.

War Horse

This WWI epic is about a young man and the horse that sees him through the war. This book is so moving that it was turned into a West End hit and a blockbuster movie. If you are trying to connect your tweens and teens with history, look no further.

Travel U for Kids

Travel U Library: France’s Many Treasures

Thanks for joining us today for our Facebook Live Book Review. I truly love these particular books and hope you will too! Each of them contributes to make us all better global citizens. Here are the Amazon links to all of today’s picks! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Katy and The Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew

In this delightful book, Katy and her grandma enjoy an adventure that brings Monet’s artistic masterpieces to life. They meet the subjects of Monet’s works and learn how to capture the light like the master. I had the pleasure of visiting Giverny, France and I could just imagine enjoying this book on a bench under the shady trees overlooking the iconic pond. Imagine inspiring your young impressionist and then visiting Monet’s shrine to the light with a box of paints and a canvas yourself! Katy inspires the inner artist in all of us. Furthermore, a book like this prepares young travelers to visit stunning Normandy or get out the art supplies and create a new masterpiece. TGC believes books like Katy and the Waterlily Pond enhance young minds and global literacy!

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet

Julie’s adventure starts in Paris as she looks at the river Seine. It’s what happens when she takes a train out to the country and meets a man that looks a lot like Santa that she realizes the river is special.

Charlotte in Giverny

Much like Katie, Charlotte has a few adventures to share. Charlotte, however, chooses to share hers in the form of a journal. Get a first hand look at what happens when Charlotte gets the chance to spend time in Giverny among the impressionist masters.

Who Was Claude Monet?

So why exactly is the famous son of France such a big deal? Read this great biography from the “bobblehead” series out of Penguin Publishing. Monet turned the art world upside down with his obsession with light. He spent his entire life seeking out that perfect light all while endearing the art world to his cause.

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child

Oh Julia! How we love this american ex-pat who took the country on its first culinary journey! Explore her bigger than life world in this adorable book that contains all sort of different facts about her life in Paris and beyond.

Who Was Julia Child?

Another “bobblehead” book, this one shows how Julia fell in love with France and french cooking. More importantly, it really shows how France reciprocated that love. I’m including the link to a great move called “Julie and Julia” as an added bonus for to Julia lovers out there. It’s a great way to dream about traveling to France!

Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower

So how in the world did we wind up with an Eiffel tower anyway? And how is the Statue of Liberty connected? While we’re at it, did people even like the Eiffel tower? Find out the answers to these questions and so many more! This is a great read for your aspiring engineers!

Madeline

The children’s classic still endures as great introduction to Paris as sweet Madeline walks in a line with her classmates and sees the city. She then deals with a serious tummy ache. Will she mend quickly? Read on to find out.

Paris City Trails

Explore Paris by foot and yet another wonderful addition of City Trails from Lonely Planet. This book is perfect for those older grade schoolers and tweens who need to start taking a role in the planning of family trips. Check out more than 15 themed walks that take you on, under, through, up , and around Paris.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau

One last amazing French citizen to check in with is the amazing Jacques Cousteau. Known for his discoveries and conservation of our planet’s seas, Cousteau made it his personal mission to save our Oceans and their residents. But how did it all begin? Read on to find out more.