My Map

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 It started with a blank map.  Knowing what I know now about my life and who I have become it is almost comical to think that an object as mundane as a map would have such a profound impact.

Yet, as I think about history I can’t help but wonder how many souls of the ages were inspired by a single word, look or phrase.  Heck, Sir Isaac Newton credits his theory of gravity to the observation of a falling apple.  These seemingly simple agents of fate have served their purposes and ignited sparks that have changed the course of history.  God works in mysterious ways, He speaks to our hearts in quiet whispers and sometimes uses insignificant objects like apples or maps to  help us realize our purpose.  When I walked into staples in 2001 as an unfocused adolescent I had no idea that on this common shopping trip I would receive my greatest inspiration.  I entered aimlessly, but left with two items that would come to symbolize my life’s greatest ambition.

I had stumbled upon the map section of the store.  I stood there just looking.  Thinking.  Tracing my fingers over the names of elusive countries and cities.  Wondering what it would be like to journey across the ocean and visit some of those places.  I thought of the people who did that…adventurers, explorers, brave, intelligent, smooth, knowledgeable, impressive, cool, beret wearing people.  I had never met what I would call an international traveler before, but I was pretty sure they were not clumsy awkward 13-year-old girls from Crawfordsville Indiana.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Yet something inside me burned and in that moment I decided that I would become these things.  I vowed to one day become that brave adventurer and I would indeed put my mark on the world.  I would be a traveler.   So, I picked out my favorite map and bought a package of golden star stickers, the kind that teachers put next to your name when you do something good.  I had my plan.  I would document my travels on this map, chronicle my territory, and cover the world with little golden stars.  Stars that represented the accomplishment to my new found ambition.   I would fill my map.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           What started with a blank map did not stay that way.  Currently I have 28 stickers on my World Map, that same map that my 13 year old self purchased all those years ago.  The same map that currently resides on my classroom wall.  I hang it there as a beacon of hope to my 13-year old students who might also feel as if the world is out of their reach.  I tell them of my adventures and follies and how I too started with a blank map.  We all start that way.    I share my stories and my map with my students to inspire them to write their own stories and fill their own maps.

My Map that Started Blank all those years ago has not stayed that way!   I have been pretty busy filling my map!  My goal is to travel to 30 countries before I am thirty years old!

Goal:  30 Countries before I am thirty years old.


Current Count:  33 Countries, and I’m 28 years old!


(In order of my visits)

1.  USA

2.  Scotland

  1. Scotland:  My First Love
  2. Edinburgh:  Castles, Ceilidhs & an ode to Haggis
  3. Finding Scotland:  Scott’s View,  Dryburgh Abbey and Abbotsford

3.  England

  1. Lake District and Yorkshire
  2. London

4.   Germany

  1. Berlin:  A Contrast of Old and New
  2. Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial

5. Belgium

  1. Bastogne Belgium:  A Heartfelt Thank You

6.  France

7.  Italy

8.  Vatican City

9.  Jamaica

10.  Canada

11.  Spain

  1. Spain:  All in God’s Perfect Timing
  2. Wandering in Madrid
  3. Redeeming Love
  4. Sevilla:  The Soul of Spain

12.  Monaco

13.  Switzerland

14.  Austria

15.  Czech Republic

16.  Mexico

17.  New Zealand

  1. The Worlds Mosaic
  2. Picture Montage

18.  Australia

19.  Singapore

  1. Singapore:  The Melting Pot of the East

20.  Thailand

  1. Phuket Thailand

21.  Cambodia

22.  Malaysia

23.   China

  1. Top 15 Things about Asia that Surprised Me
  2. Mainland China:  Beijing Day One
  3. Why Asia?

24.  South Korea

25.  Japan

26.  Ireland

27.  Finland

  1. How Fulbright?  Why Finland
  2. Finland:  Initial thoughts, Experiences and a Trip to Jyväskylä Lapland:

28.  Russia

29.  Sweden

30.  Denmark

31.  Estonia

32.  Netherlands

33.  Norway

34.  Brazil


10 thoughts on “My Map

  1. Pingback: 2013: A year of Adventures | Filling My Map

  2. Beautiful Story of God’s leading. Love you always-Mom
    P.S. you need to color in another country !!!! I was expecting Finland to be “blue” 🙂


  3. 2 more countries to go in 2 more years shouldn’t be hard.

    Suggest a small Scandinavian trip:

    Stand on top of the “Ribe Domkirke” and enjoy the view across the flatlands. (Church, built in 1110-1134). Travel up the coast from there, see the beaches and the WW2 bunkers, some still in place, securing the Axis powers from an Allied invasion. Go to Roskilde and study the original viking ships there and visit a viking market.

    Continue either to Oslo to sail all the way up to Tromsø or take a ride on a river boat on the Göta canal in Sweden.

    That will add two more countries to your map.


  4. Pingback: A Dream of Olympic Proportions | Filling My Map

  5. Hello, is new years eve and I’m reading your story that is great. I hope you will visit Greece in some time.It’s a wonderful country for the visitors and in contrast with Finland not for the students as well.


  6. Nice to see The Netherlands on your list…, and that you have ticked off New Zealand already.

    Do let me know when you might like to come here, Family Kiwidutch live in The Hague and are rather in the habit of taking in random strangers… we have guest room. Nothing fancy or large but a free bed is a free bed right? As a family we also save hard for travel, and we share your experience ethos. 🙂

    We also like to blend with the locals if we can, rather than do the tourist thing, but, as you mentioned with your Venice experience, a few tourist things just “need” to be done sometimes. Why go to Paris and not go up Tour Eiffel for instance? Great blog, I’m having fun reading.


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