Why you should adopt a personal travel quest

I believe that travel quests are one of the best ways to inspire more travel. In fact, the original name of this blog was originally going to be VisitEveryPark.com—an ode to the quest that inspired so much of my own travel. That’s how powerful I think quests can be to getting out and adventuring more. … Read more

How to create a google map of places you want to visit

This post is primarily a screencast tutorial on how to create a custom google map of places you want to visit—or what I like to call an Adventure Map.

An Adventure Map is a handy repository for all of those places on your OMG-I-Want-to-Visit list. It’s a place to store those random campsite tips you get from friends, that instagram post about a backcountry waterfall, or that killer hike your friend just posted on facebook. There are plenty of ways to save this information for later, but I find that a custom map is one of the most useful.

The screencast tutorial

In this tutorial, I show you my personal Adventure Map and explain how I use it. I then teach you how to create your own adventure map. The entire screencast lasts about 27 minutes. If you’re in a rush, the tutorial itself starts at the 8:30 mark. I’ve also added some additional notes below that I didn’t mention in the screencast, as well as another short tutorial on how to load your new Adventure Map onto your mobile phone.

Even if you’ve used Google’s My Maps before, I hope there some nuggets that can you can put to good use. If you have additional tips, please leave them in the comments.

Thanks for watching. It’s quite a bit longer than I would have liked, and I’m not particularly happy with my performance, but I hope you found it useful. Below are some items I didn’t mention in the screencast that you might want to know about.

Additional notes not mentioned in the tutorial

Other ways to add pins

You can also add pins by clicking on the pin icon in the toolbar and clicking directly on the map. This is especially useful if you’re setting pins to investigate on the ground later, like possible indian ruins or dispersed camping sites. In addition, you can also search for a location by gps coordinates, which makes it easy to add destinations that you might have found from blogs, guide books, or someone else’s custom map.

More on driving, biking, and walking directions

Another method to add driving directions is to click the draw a line tool and select the add a driving (or biking or walking) route from the drop-down menu. Then click where you want the route to start and trace the path you want to the directions to follow. Double click to end the route. This will create a new layer containing the directions. Using this tool, Google will calculate a route based on the roads in its database. So if you start your route 1/4 mile from a road, the directions instead start at the nearest point on the nearest road, and only follow roadways. Awkwardly, this is also the case with walking and biking directions, too. Nonetheless, this is still a useful method when you’re trying to force Google Maps directions to follow a particular route.

Drawing lines and shapes

You can also add lines and free-form shapes (using straight lines only) to your map. I find this to be useful when there’s an entire area I want to save for future investigation, such as a long wall of petroglyphs, or what appears from satellite view to be a complex of pueblo ruins. Select the draw a line tool, click to add the starting anchor point for the line, then move to where you want the second anchor point to be and click again. You can continue to add anchor points, creating a multiple angled line. When you’re done, double-click to lock it in.

Or, if you’re adding a shape, follow this same procedure around the edge of the area you want, being sure to end back at the first anchor point. Once you’ve saved your shape, you can go back and adjust the location of the corners or create a new corner by dragging the dimmed circle that’s midpoint on each line. Once you’ve saved your area, Google will calculate the perimeter distance and area for you.

If you’re trying to undo a line or shape, you can easily abort by clicking ESC on your keyboard. If you click ESC again, you’ll be returning to the default select mode where you can click to select items or drag to pan the map.

Measuring distances and areas

This tool functions similar to the one used to add line and shapes, except that it doesn’t add any permanent items to your map. Instead, it simply shows you the distance of the line, or the perimeter and area of a shape. One useful feature of this tool is that when you’re measuring distances, it keeps a running total using “mile markers” along the line path.

How to load your Adventure Map onto your phone

As mentioned in the screencast, one of the benefits of using a custom google map is that you can load it as the base map on Google Maps on your phone. Below is a brief tutorial on how that in iOS.

Here’s how to do the same thing on Android. Even better, the My Maps app for Android allows you to create and modify your custom maps directly from your device.

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pictured rocks

A moment of serenity at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sometimes, you just need a minute or two away—to recollect, to destress, to center yourself. To forget about the annoyances of the moment.

Here’s an opportunity to do just that.

So sit back, put in your headphones, click the fullscreen button, and enjoy the late afternoon shoreline of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Always remember the path back to the important places

Child of mine
come as you grow
in youth you will learn the secret places
the cave behind the waterfall
the arms of the oak that hold you high
the stars so near on a desert ledge
the important places
and as with age you choose your own way
among the many faces of a busy world
may you always remember the path that leads back
back to the important places.

— Dad for Forest, 1986

This short poem inspired the excellent short film above. It’s a poignant re-telling of how the poem inspired a return trip, and it highlights the role that our public lands play in our collective lives. Of how those shared experiences—even ones separated by decades—can help make us feel at home and connected to the ones we care most about. Our important places help us create, and later relive, our cherished memories.

If you haven’t made it back to the important places of your life recently, maybe it’s time to change that.

words of wilderness

Words of Wilderness

The Wilderness Act turns 50 this year and this short video is a visually stunning way to celebrate some of our most treasured landscapes. We’re truly indebted to John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, Also Leopold, and the countless other unsung advocates who fought tirelessly to preserve Wilderness for us all. What an amazing legacy to leave.

…on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam—our pale blue dot.

It’s hard to find a more eloquent, humbling, and ultimately empowering statement than the inspired words of Carl Sagan. If you’ve had a bad day recently or need some perspective on your life, here it is. Watch. Listen. In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, revel in the joy of sharing a … Read more

Steve Jobs has some advice for you

Steve Jobs died today.

I’m not usually a fan of corporate behemoths, but there was always something special about the way Apple—no, make that Steve Jobs—went about changing the world. You don’t need much more proof of the impact he had on the tech industry, or the last generation or two, or the world today than the overwhelming outpouring of emotion after his death. If you were online, you knew. He was the entrepreneur of our generation, and one of the all-time great innovators and visionaries. The 60s/70s had NASA, and the 80s/90s/00s had Steve Jobs.

No matter whether you’re a fanboy or a hater, it’s hard not to argue that Steve’s passing leaves a huge hole in our culture’s soul. Steve and Apple certainly left an indelible mark on my life. He will be missed.

Perhaps one of his more poignant moments came during his Stanford commencement address. I’ve watched this video at least a dozen times over the years. The advice he gives is even more moving today than when I heard it last.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Watch the entire speech above (or read the transcript). Either way, I promise that it will be well worth your time.

So let’s go make sure we all have our “one more thing” moment. There’s no sense in waiting.