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Learning to be a mapmaker

This past week, someone asked me what inspires me to write Bon Traveler. Bon Traveler has always been about inspiring others to travel well and travel often—to encourage people to set out and blaze the trail—but this time a new word came to mind: mapmaker.

“Mapmaker is someone who literally makes maps. They step into the unknown and chart the way so others may follow.”

I was reminded of the term recently, when someone used it in another context, but this time I heard it in a new way. It lit within me a bigger, more personal idea and gave me fresh language to describe why I write. When I really think about the “why” that drives Bon Traveler, it’s to tap into the transformational power of travel and leverage it as a medium to empower others to become their own mapmakers—to set their own course, live the lives they were created for, and show others the way.

Travel is magical. It inspires. It moves. It permeates you and changes every part of your life. The path of becoming a mapmaker is long, winding, and sometimes unpredictable. And it’s in that ebb and flow that growth happens. Traveling immerses you in situations and experiences that shape your inner being. Situations that reveal something to you that you didn’t know before. They shape the way you process life and the people you share it with. They teach you to be vulnerable. And, most importantly, they teach you to be more you.

It’s also easy to juxtapose being a mapmaker and/or a traveler and think we have to choose one or the other. But the honest truth is:

We need both.

There are times where we need to blaze the trail (be a mapmaker), and there are times that we need the trails to blaze us (be a traveler).

If you asked me to think about the times I have personally struggled the most, New York City is the first thing that comes to my mind. It’s where I go almost every time I just need to be a traveler, the times where I need a reset on daily life, to be refreshed, and be reminded of what’s important.

Blessed to have family to stay with, I retreat to the daily life of living in the city. I travel through the Metro station, I head to Laduree in the UES, walk over to pay tribute to Balto (childhood tradition), and soak up the heartbeat of New York City. It’s brilliant and the moments there prepare me for times when I need to be strong in mapmaking. Obviously I can’t always go to NYC when I need to just be a “traveler” so I turn to local alternatives like hiking in Muir Woods, a neighborhood jaunt, or even long drive back to my childhood home — the experience is all synonymous.

There are times I don’t want to blaze trails, I want—rather, I need—the trails to blaze me. 

When I think about the times I have overcome and grown the most, it’s always a result of travel.

…Hopping on a flight to a foreign country where I can’t speak a language, finding myself in the middle of Wadi Rum, Jordan immersed in the middle of the golden, silent desert and all I can think is: this is what life is about.

…The time I sat in a bus from Granada to San Juan del Sur taking in the drastic landscapes of culture in Nicaragua.

…The time I spent an overnight layover in the terminal at CDG and learned a quick lesson on planning appropriately.

…A quick moment of frustration trying to figure out the subway in London and learning to slow down, read, and breathe.

All of these moments spent outside my comfort zone teach (and continue to teach) me more about not just being a traveler but becoming a mapmaker.

So when I say travel well and travel often, this is what I mean.

Become a traveler and learn to live like a mapmaker. Experience places that will put you in the middle of beautiful and inspiring stories that will not just impact you but the people you interact with. Stories that will become the pillars to the way you live, I live, and we live.

And most importantly,

Share your map.

A mapmaker and traveler live in perfect harmony together. I can’t travel and not develop the skills of mapmaking.

And to be come a mapmaker?

Well, travel is my answer.

Travel well, travel often. Xx

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