Someone wise (I forget who) once observed that "the map is not the territory." This certainly is true: nothing can replace experiencing first-hand the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a foreign land. Nonetheless, maps are essential tools for travelers. Without them, we would be lost. Here are some qualities that I look for in a good travel map.
- A thorough index: nothing is worse than having to search endlessly for a small town on a map without an index.
- Waterproof and tear-proof paper: a travel map is only as useful as the quality of the paper that it's printed on.
- Well known travel destinations clearly marked: this won't make Machu Picchu any easier to get to, but at least I'll be able to find it in a hurry.
- Mountains and lowlands easy to see: this way I'll know when to take my altitude-sickness pills.
- A useable legend with distances in both kilometres and miles: sometimes I'm metric, and sometimes I'm not.
- Easy to fold back up: I don't have time to practice origami when I'm on the road.
- Reasonable price: travel journalism is a low-rent occupation.