Map or photos


Updated 2 years ago

Which is more important when travelling to a destination- a map, photos of the place, or friendly locals willing to help?


A map provides precise directions on how to get somewhere, but it offers no visual clues on how the destination looks like. Armed with just a map and no photos, we wouldn't even know what to expect when we've arrived at our destination.


Being in person at a beautiful place, everything feels real. A lot more real compared to a photo of it. But we take a photo of it anyways- so we can share a piece of that experience with others that have not been there. Photos also capture nostalgia- to remind us of what we felt when we were there. It is not as real as being there, but we get a glimpse of what we've experienced there. Nothing beats the experience of being there in person, but a photo still paints a thousand words.


Sometimes, we ask friendly locals for directions. The helpfulness of this depends on 2 things; how well we describe our destination, and the clarity of their instructions. If we don't describe it well, they might misunderstand what we meant, and direct us to the wrong place. Even if we describe it perfectly, wrong instructions also leads us to the wrong place. We might get there and be dissapointed at what we find, because its not the place that we were looking for. It's hard to describe a destination or offer guidance without referring to a map or some photos.


It's moot to compare which is more useful - a map, or photos of the place. They both serve different purposes. A map is a logical document that provides hard cold instructions on how to get to a destination. A photo is an emotional document that provides warmth and nostalgia; it invokes excitement and suspense of what to expect when we get there. Instead of choosing one, we should use both. Use a map to get somewhere confidently, but allow photos to encourage us along the way. A map is useful for guiding us to the destination, but photos of it makes us want to go there.


Photos are subjective. No one can say: that is the correct or wrong photo of a place. It is highly personalised to the person that captured it. Maps on the other hand, are objective. Directions from many people are corroborated to find the most plausible truth on how to get there. This "most plausible truth" is then promoted to a map that people use as their guide. The map is not an instruction from one person, but a distillation of each person's reality into a widely accepted truth. Truth is objective, reality is subjective.


Nowadays we use a map app in our phone instead of paper maps. It is a lot easier to use an app- enter a destination and receive turn by turn directions on how to get there. Paper maps are hard to use. We trust the map, but we have to be sure that we are aligning ourselves with it correctly. If we aren't, we might be travelling down the wrong road for a long time. In contrast, the map app shows us exactly where we are all the time. While this is great if the only goal for travelling is to arrive at the destination, its not so great for an adventure. Adventure happens when you travel down the wrong road, learn something new, and make a u-turn back to the right way. The destination is the end of an adventure, but growth and learning is what happens along the way!


We should trust a map to guide us to our destination, but photos paint a beautiful story of what to expect when we get there.


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