My Wishtrip is to visit (or revisit) art museums in major cities within a few hours of my house. I created a Google Map of the cities with images of the art museums I would like to visit. I enjoy visiting art museums by myself as I feel that visiting museums alone gives one the feeling of transcendence. I gaze at the images and I’m taken to the time and place of the paintings. Each gallery takes me to a time and place and reading the captions on the art work evokes the epoch’s zeitgeist. I usually leave museums feeling refreshed, unless of course, there were excessive tourist groups or crying children. They tend to ruin the mood!
Google Custom Maps has made a lot of progress since I last used them. I don’t believe earlier iterations allowed me to upload images in my custom map. I utilized this feature to add images (using a built in Google search) of the art museums I would like to visit or revisit on each trip. I love this technology and I can attest to how it has enriched my trips. As my blog title suggests, I love to travel, though I don’t do it professionally. There is nothing more fun than driving to a city for the weekend and soaking up as much culture as possible. I depend on semantic tagging to help me find out-of-the-way spots not usually found on tourist maps. In fact, I actively avoid most tourist destinations in the cities I visit. Thanks to semantic tagging in Google Maps and such sites as Yelp, I’m able to find the best local restaurants, dive bars, and quirky art spaces. I credit Yelp to introducing me to restaurants which I wouldn’t normally frequent. There are many restaurants that are a ‘turn off’ due to a dingy exterior, bad location, etc. This site has helped me to find them and share my own experiences.
I can think of mostly positive consequences of semantic tagging in travel. For one, you can spend more visiting places rather than trying to locate them. I recall the era before GPS in which getting lost meant losing your temper, a few hours, and a lot of gas! Yelp and other review sites helps promote local businesses. In many cities, local restaurants have as much visibility as national chains, not because they advertise heavily or are featured in tourist literature, but because of their online reviews. Another benefit of the GPS age is to see the world from the eyes of another person’s tastes. I have enjoyed looking at the maps of my classmates because their destinations tell me something about their interests. I have used Google Maps to ‘curate’ my own life and give people a better sense of who I am (particularly my travel interests). I think geo-tagging is a powerful tool in that it can highlight local culture, cuisine, and attractions rather than steer people to predictable but mass-produced restaurants and bars.
If there’s any disadvantage, it would be the loss of serendipitous discovery of places that comes with getting lost. It is now possible to plan an entire trip, not deviate from that route, and miss what might otherwise be discovered. I have lived in larger cities and I found that many newcomers are dependent (and remain dependent) on GPS. They know how to get from point A to point B to point C, but have no idea where point A is in relation to point C. In a way, GPS systems are robbing us of our own sense of navigation – a skill that I think is very important. Whenever I move to a city, I spend plenty of time driving around streets just to explore and get a general sense of navigation. In my city and in city, there is as much to be learned by visiting the sidestreets as visiting the main streets. Every city, no matter how big or small, has curious microhabitats that a very focused traveler would miss. I hope that GPS technology does become a way of avoiding the interesting side trails that really make traveling fun.