Passport Maps frames your trip route as art

Route map of our honeymoon for my book, Crocodile Love; PassportMaps.com created the custom image.

I discovered PassportMaps.com at just the right time. My book, a travel memoir called Crocodile Love, was nearing completion and I was scrambling to find professional quality route maps. I never really considered going to press without the maps. My previous five titles are all travel guidebooks with Avalon Travel’s Moon Travel Guides series, where my writer guidelines proclaim, “Maps are to guidebooks what butter is to pound cake.”

And though this new title was a travel narrative, not a guidebook, it was still hard for me to abandon my maps. Luckily, I didn’t have to. In addition to maps for the book’s interior, I also needed a large poster map highlighting our route to use during presentations. Passport Maps has been able to help with both. I typed in my route information then they created a map showing our trip. They can also help tell the story of your trip, using thumbnail photos and a bullet list of destinations designed into the map (some samples from their gallery). Most people do a version of these, then frame and hang it on their wall.

As both a map nerd and a storyteller, I was immediately intrigued. I began working with Scott Lussier, fellow tranquilo traveler, who started PassportMaps.com 15 years ago. “I was learning how to make maps on computers for work. As a practice exercise, I made a map of the Study Abroad trip [I’d previously taken]. I printed it and hung it up, delighted with my little memento. Some friends liked it and I made a few more.”

The rest is history. I asked Scott a few more questions about his unique service for travelers:

Joshua Berman: How are maps and storytelling related? 

Scott Lussier, founder of PassportMaps.com

Scott Lussier: In my mapmaking college class, one of my main semester themes I harp on is that our main goal as a mapmaker is to tell a story. Every map tells a story, whether its a simple thing like “the fire hydrants are here, here and here” or a complicated theme like “here is my wonderful trip and all the details of where I went.” I emphasize this with my clients when we’re building a Passport Map as well. I want to know the feelings and small details and I want to get them on the map. I want to capture the things they want to remember in 10 years. The really great maps I make are the ones where people allow their emotions to come through.

JB: What is the most popular map you sell?
SL: Of all my products, I mostly sell the “Epic Vacation” type of map. People want to capture their once-in-a-lifetime trips. Interestingly, I tend to sell to the 50+ age crowd. I think that with time they appreciate the adventures they’ve taken a bit more than the younger crowd does. I sell a lot of gift certificates as well. Its a neat gift for that person who has everything.
8766688_origJB: What’s the craziest trip any of your clients have asked you to map before?
SL: To be honest, after mapping out your honeymoon, you win! But apart from that, the most impressive trip was mapping a 50-day, 19-country, 33-port cruise from Istanbul to Stockholm. It was tough fitting it all on the map. Another memorable one was an adrenaline junkie who went to New Zealand and scaled glaciers, hiked rain forests, bungee jumped, swam with dolphins, rode jet boat and kayaked. Another favorite is one I did for a gentleman who traveled back to Poland after having had to flee 50 years ago as a child. He re-connected with relatives, roamed the small town he grew up in, literally bumped into a classmate on the street, and showed his wife of 25 years where he was from. The trip really meant a lot to the two of them and I was glad I could help them express it.
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More fun with maps

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