Maphead Chapter 8: Meander

My name is Kat C. and I am in the 9th Grade. I have lived all over the western U.S. (Utah, Colorado, California, Texas) and visited many other states in the west as well as driven along the south east border. I have yet to leave the country except in books, but already have travel checklists I hope to complete when I am older. I have been here in Lakeway for 6 years despite moving houses and speak a little Spanish. I like to consider myself a mental “systematic traveler” and felt like chapter 8 of Maphead spoke out to me for being about others like myself.

Chapter 8 is titled Meander, perhaps as a pun on its double meaning. A meander is a bend in a river or “other watercourse”, but when you meander, you wander around from place to place, seemingly without direction. The chapter begins with a flashback to when atlases let people travel by armchair instead of actually going places. We can “time travel” through the centuries to today, the Jet Age. In a world where you can go anywhere, we like to say that we can be everywhere and do everything. It’s a simple fact that we can’t, so Jennings introduces the readers to the “Meanderers” of our world, the wanderers who live and travel by checklist. There are tens of thousands of these people who “place collect” across our globe. Many of them join clubs, others join small groups. Some do it in pairs or on their own. In 1954, the Travelers Century Club was founded in southern California for those who had visited at least 100 countries. With more than 2000 members, their regular luncheons are a great way for “geography wonks” that are living their dream to gather and be around others who understand some of their desire to finish a list. Most of the members are older, retired people who picked up this chance to put meaning back into their lives. If you think about it, our “meanderers” are not directionless, but are giving themselves direction. They are wanderers with a purpose, a checklist traveler. They always have a goal, usually have a plan, but some don’t have the means. Yet we have many, many “systematic travelers” still out there enjoying the pleasure that comes with crossing something off, being able to say that you have one-hundred percent of something in your background.
The Highpointers Club gathers visits to the highest elevation in each U.S. state.  It seems a bit odd to be combining borders drawn entirely by man with something natural like a mountain or hill.  However, the club still has 3000 members who gather to these 50 otherwise unknown locations. It takes only one fragment of difference in numbers to make them each special and unique, something worth looking at. Just like people.

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4 thoughts on “Maphead Chapter 8: Meander

  1. I loved your view on how “meanderers” give themselves a direction and travel with a goal in mind. When reading this chapter, i did not look at it that way. I also liked the way you call yourself a mental “systematic traveler” and that you travel through books. I agree with you in that books are a great way to mental experience different places. What are some places that you wish to travel in the future?

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  2. I would like to go on trips to places around the world doing similar things to Mrs. Browning and helping out in disaster areas. Someday it would be nice to have hands-on experience to some of the places that affect our current events.

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  3. You write about meandering through books like a traveler meanders through a new place, which do you feel has the better experience? I enjoy studying and “meandering” through maps and looking at their details and their hidden places. I also enjoy meandering through historical areas and taking in every detail. Do you have a preference?

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  4. I feel that books give you certain amounts of experience that help you achieve new perspectives, but you could never replace actually being in that there. That’s why people who have been to the Grand Canyon often say that pictures don’t do it justice. When you are in a place you have a deeper understanding of where you are. What your question asks is basically the difference between sense of place and “perception of place”. “Sense of place” is where you give a place meaning by connecting it to emotions and experiences, while your “perception of place” is your understanding of a place based on second hand knowledge (such as books, movies, stories, pictures, etc.). You may have first hand knowledge of a place, but that doesn’t mean you understand it or already know everything about it. That’s where your second hand knowledge comes in. Your “perception of a place” will help you shift your point of view and see things under a new light. But you still cannot say it replaces the real thing. In the same way you can view the same things so many ways, we need to combine the two. “Sense of place” and “perception of a place” are like a tub of Neapolitan ice cream. You need to eat all the flavors together to enjoy the full experience. That’s my goal. Someday, I am going to have three flavors of ice cream together in the same bowl and then I can say I understand it, but not yet. For now I settle with one and make plans to achieve the rest. Does that help answer your question?

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