Mappy Monday: Google Maps and Virtual Trips Home

Wordmark of Google Maps

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My father has been telling me stories about growing up in west Texas since I was just a little squirt. I know about his wild days in high school (to a degree – I doubt he’s told me everything!), about the business that was in two generations of the family and we still have items for, and about the houses he and his parents and grandparents lived in as he grew up. With all those stories came a promise – one day we would go back there together, him and me, and we would see those places and walk those roads and visit family graves. He would show me where he grew up, where my grandparents grew up, where my great-grandparents carved a living out of a small town life. A good life.

That promise was always nebulous, like the future it was supposed to happen in – some day. Some day we’d take that trip and see those things. But there isn’t an infinite number of somedays.

It’s become imperative to me to take this trip sooner rather than later. But for timing and financial reasons, it’s looking difficult to make that trip happen. I was starting to get worried I’d never see those places through his eyes.

But as I was falling asleep last night, I had an epiphany. Google Maps isn’t just awesome for taking trips – you can take a walk down memory lane with it, too. Lying in bed, I reached for my iPhone and went straight to the map app, and did a search for my dad’s hometown. And I wandered the streets from 2000 miles away, looking at the buildings and the homes he likely knew in his youth. When I fell asleep, I had a smile on my face, and I woke up with it still this morning.

I have every intention of taking that trip with him still – but if for some reason we can’t make it happen, it’s easy as pie to sit down with him at a computer, pull out Google Maps and “walk” those streets with him thanks to modern technology. Visuals evoke memories like nothing else can; photos can spark memories of cousins and I’m hoping seeing these old streets and buildings as they are today, not so much changed, will enable him to tell me the stories I wanted to hear anyway. It’s not as good as being there, but it’s a darn sight closer than no trip at all.

If you have someone in your family that grew up far away and it’s too difficult to make a trip back there with him, sit them down with Google Maps and “take a stroll” with them. It might surprise you what you find.

© 2011, copyright Genealady & JustFolks

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