Sometimes a simple map showing the places you've been is all you need to start telling the story of your travels.
I've been everywhere, man,
I've been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
TravelI've had my share, man
I've been everywhere
Johnny Cash, "I've Been Everywhere"
In the U.S. and Canada, it's not uncommon to see camping vehicles or RVs sporting a map emblazoned on the side, showing the states and provinces that the vehicle has traveled through. And why not? For many of us, the list of countries we've been to, or the tally of states or provinces we've set foot in, is like a badge of honor, an encapsulation of all the adventures we've had and of all the wonderful places we've come upon in our travels.
Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, it's almost painless to make maps on the Web that highlight the places we've visited and proudly share those maps via web sites or email. A great place to start is World66.com, which describes itself as "the travel guide you write." Among the many cool features of the site is My World66, a page where you can make and export maps of places you've visited, including maps of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the world. My World66 can be found at http://world66.com/myworld66/.
Start by clicking one of the "Visited Places" links, and you'll be taken to a page full of labeled checkboxes, each one corresponding to a place that can be shown on that map. Figure 1-4 shows some of the choices available for the "Visited States" map. Check all the places you've been to in that part of the world, and click "Generate Map." That's all there is to it! Figure 1-5 shows some of the states of the U.S. that Jo has visited.
Figure 1-4. Selecting states for the Visited States map
Figure 1-5. Jo hasn't quite been as many places as Johnny Cash, but she's working on it
What's especially hackish about these maps is how they are made: World66 doesn't redraw their maps from scratch each time someone visits their site. Instead, each map is stored in a GIF image, a common image format used on the Web. In a GIF image, each pixel is assigned not an individual color, but rather an index of a palette of colors, numbered 0 through 255. World66 takes advantage of this property of GIF images by giving all the pixels for Alabama one index, Alaska another index, Arizona another, and so on up to Wyoming. To render the map, instead of changing the pixels themselves, the web site just changes the color of the palette entry corresponding to each state. Since there are fewer than 256 states in the U.S., provinces in Canada, and countries in the entire world, this trick can be used to make simple maps of places with astonishingly little work.
Now that you've made a map of the places you've visited, what can you do with it? You can save it to disk, for future reference. By viewing the image directly, you'll see that World66 also generates a unique link for each map of a form that is similar to http://world66.com/myworld66/visitedStates/statemap?visited=..., which you can copy and paste into an email to your friends, perhaps. Finally, World66 provides a text box with a bit of HTML that you can paste into a web page to show off your map on your own blog or web site.
Of course, you shouldn't feel limited in your cartographic efforts to recording just the places you have visited. The interface is so simple that a lot of other possibilities immediately spring to mind, like maps of "The Places My Brother Swears He Will Never Visit Again," "Some Countries I Have Collected Stamps from," or the ever-popular "States That Have a Warrant Out for My Arrest." There are countless stories waiting to be told!