Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Tracking Travel

I like to travel. I've been a few places. I have a map on the wall with pins where I've been. Old School, but I started it before the Internet existed. I'd like to move it into the digital era. Looking into that led me to Most Traveled People (MTP) and NomadMania (NM). Both offer the ability to generate maps of places visited based on data you enter. I tried both. The NM data entry process was so slow and cumbersome, I gave up. MTP worked better. The map it produced showing the countries I'd been to makes me look pretty well traveled:

This is terribly misleading. Country-level granularity means that if you visit only a single place in a big country (e.g., the USA, Canada, Russia), the map makes it look like you visited the whole thing. Recognizing this, both MTP and NM break the world into much smaller regions, 1500 in the case of MTP and 1301 in the case of NM. My MTP region map is not just less impressive, it's frankly a little depressing for somebody who feels like he's been around:
The region-based approach is better than one based on countries, but as I was entering the data for my travels in the United States, I found that MTP treats a few states as multiple regions. California, for example, comprises four regions, and Texas three. (NM does the same thing.) Like most states, Oregon--my state--is a single region, and my state pride was wounded at the idea that Colorado is broken into east and west, and Georgia into north and south, yet all of Oregon is thrown into a single basket. Eastern and western Oregon differ greatly in terms of geography, climate, economics, politics, and culture. Having been to one of them doesn't mean you've been to the other in any meaningful way.

Breaking the world into regions and tracking who's been where is good for ranking people in terms of how geographically widespread their travels have been. Such rankings are the bread and butter of MTP and NM. I was surprised to find that I'm a comparative couch potato. Kayak tells me that since I started using it in 2011, I've traveled nearly 500 days, flown over a half million miles, and been in 17 time zones, yet those trips plus my pre-Kayak travels let me lay claim to barely 10% of MTP's 1500 regions. With the paltry 43 countries I've visited, I'm not even half way to qualifying for the Travelers' Century Club. From the perspective of competitive travel, I might as well not even have a passport.

Fortunately, I'm not out to engage in big-league travel competition. I just want a digital approach to tracking where I've been. For that purpose, I'm thinking a custom Google Map with digital push-pins is the way to go. It's basically the same thing I've got on my wall now, except in digital form.