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Have Better Conversations: Put Maps Of Your Travel History On Your Smartphone

Use maps and photos on your smartphone to enhance conversations about traveling.

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I was sitting in a bar in Hangzhou with Michael Robert Powell and the bartender asked us where we’ve traveled. I did my usual, “Uh, I’ve visited very many countries,” but Michael had this question aced:

He pulled out his smartphone, opened up a folder of photos, and showed the guy an array of maps depicting his paths of travel all over the planet.

I was clearly, beyond all doubt, showed up. I definitely was not going to take the most interesting traveler prize that night.

For those who are not familiar with him, MRP has been traveling the world for over 25 years, through more than 100 countries. If anybody has been asked the same travel related questions zillions of time over, it’s him. So it’s perhaps no surprise that he’s prepared himself with visual aides to facilitate his travel stories and perhaps upgrade a few conversations above the mundane hostel Q and A.

Smartphone-with-mapThis strategy is simple but the effects can be incredible. After seeing how MRP used the maps and photos on his phone to engage a new acquaintance andquickly and easily communicated his travel history I decided that it would be a good idea to follow suit. So I made maps that have little lines running across them which show the places I’ve visited as well as photos which show the highlights of my travels or which otherwise illustrate the stories I like to tell or topics I like to talk about.

All over the world traditionally social places — like bars, cafes etc . . . — are being overrun by masses of people who seemingly just want to stare silently into their phones. It is truly amazing how often people go out to places with their friends or families and hardly say a word to anyone, their attention unshakably commanded by their mobile devices. When used this way the smartphone is a conversation killer, the device becomes a colossal blockade to verbally connecting with the people around you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way: the smartphone can also be a tool to enhance and develop conversation. Load your phone up with images/ video/ and audio files that you may want to discuss/ share with other people and use them as aides to start conversations, to augment dialogue, to better illustrate your stories, or simply as a way to provide better responses to the same questions that people always ask you all the friggin’ time when traveling.

Conversation is one of the prime arts of travel. It is a process of giving and receiving: the more you give the more you get. Being prepared increases the likelihood of both.


Filed under: Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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  • trevor February 17, 2019, 5:31 pm

    MRP just has this natural way…

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    • Wade Shepard February 17, 2019, 9:04 pm

      For sure.

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