Geography for insane humans

Geography for insane humans

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I rewrote their headline over coffee. It should have said, “1 Woman, 12 Months, 52 Places and this small, but perfectly formed, video graphic” – but when I read the @nytimes article, something more profound hit me.

In short, Jada Yuan was the lucky/unlucky applicant picked to visit 52 far-flung destinations in one year. Her despatches, for the New York Times, haven’t been on a par with, say, Alistair Cooke or AA Gill (how could they be), but they haven’t been devoid of literary food for thought, or informed insights, either.

Don’t you just love this?

From the outset, I’d been just as hooked on Jada’s approach to the project as I am to this video. Don’t know why: it’s the simplicity of it, I guess.

Jada had said, “My soul isn’t being filled when I’m not travelling”, which sounds very, very familiar. For the life of me, though I can’t remember how the @nytimes planned the journey. I don’t think we were ever told – which niggled me, week on week. There was a piece in the NYT’s reader centre about unicorns, and the 13,000 applicants they’d had… but I cannot remember what the rationale was for the route.

And then she wrote this:

“I’ve also had to face reality: that constant travel — alone — on an illogical route no sane human would plan, might take a toll on my physical and mental well-being.”

No, sane, human. Which begs the question, how do humans plan routes? And, another question, what determines a sane route anyway? More questions: is the most-sane route one that covers the least distance, or is the least insane route one that travels consistently in the same direction – be that West, or East? And (final question) if it wasn’t a human that planned the route, then –goshdarnit– it was definitely a human who programmed the machine (by which I mean GIS, obvs), which, in turn, planned the route.

It doesn’t matter. Our approach to using geographic information is often predicated on delivering efficiency or effectiveness, first. But in this case, the exact opposite of a sensible approach to using geographic information has made the outcome all the more preferable.

Any other route would have taken a different toll on Jada’s travel plans, and her writing, and given her – and us, the readers – a completely different experience.

Personally, I like insane travel arrangements. They’re the ones that give me the most pleasure, so I make them all of the time.

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