When a Map is more than a Map...

April 13, 2018

 

Some people love coffee.  Some people love cats.  Some people love wine.

 

Me?  I love maps. 

 

I know, it’s weird. But I have loved maps since my dad gave me my first Rand McNally map in 1982.  I was making a prospective college visit from Dalhart, Texas to Kerrville, Texas.  I was 17 years old and was experiencing freedom for the first time. My first solo road trip. Well, I was with my friend Synthia, but no parents.  My dad showed me which direction to go, what my destination was and how long it would take me to get there.  We measured the miles with a ruler and did calculations the old-fashioned way. 

 

I was hooked.

 

After that, I was never without a map.  A map in my glove compartment, a map under the seat, a map in my suitcase.  It was comforting.  Knowing that no matter where I was, I could figure out where to go.  A map made sense to me.

 

As I got older and began to travel extensively in my career, I began to rely more and more on maps.  They took on a new meaning to me. I began to use them not only for travel all over the world, but to study history.  To plan the future. I used custom maps to show the location of a city, a county, region, a state, a country. I used maps in my marketing to show directions, industrial parks, main streets, historical markers, lakes, roadside potty parks, hiking trails, golf courses, schools, hospitals, airports, housing developments, zoning, landfills, water treatment plants and so much more.

 

But while maps became a critical part of my business life, my love for a good old-fashioned map remained. Those that know me personally know that in every office I have ever had, I have had at least one (if not more) beautifully framed maps. I have had awesome historical maps, practical current maps and everything in between.   

 

To many people, a map is merely used for instructions on how to get from Point A to Point B in the quickest way possible. To avoid traffic. To get from the airport to the hotel. From the hotel to the meeting. From the house to the vacation destination.

 

But maps give us so much more. I have a true fascination with treasure maps, colonial maps, civil war maps, Lewis & Clark maps, Gold Rush maps, Dust Bowl maps…you see where this is going.  And if you really want to see something interesting, the maps depicting downtown Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871 is both sad and amazing!  

 

Maps show us roads, rail, boundaries, terrain, natural resources, ports, attractions, amenities, infrastructure and more.  But buried in those maps are the grit of those who settled the wild west, the commitment of those who built the original 13 colonies, the ingenuity of those who created our amazing railroad system, the sheer tenacity of the original oil wildcatters, and for Texas…centuries of a rich and diverse history while under the domain of six different countries. 

 

I am a true Texan. I love our state, our history, our people and our roots.  Beautiful Texas maps have been a mainstay in my life for more than 30 years.  

 

Like many baby boomers and empty nesters, I have been in a “simplify my life” mode for a few years.  Paring down “stuff”, discarding decades of paperwork, organizing photos (actual photos, something this generation doesn’t understand!), cleaning out closets, donating extra items, and purging the things that are no longer relevant to our everyday life. During this time, after 30 years in the trenches, I also made the exciting transition to entrepreneurship. From this transition, it was a huge project to sell or donate an abundance of office items collected over three decades of an amazing professional journey.

 

Everything except a large framed Texas map.

 

Oh, how I loved that map.  It was a bold, beautiful, framed and functional current Texas map that was colored in a way to make it look vintage. I spent hours studying the map, strategizing about Texas, about how to grow Texas, about industry clusters, about joining cities and counties together for collaborative marketing and to see how many Team Texas members I could visit in one road trip. Even though I could find out time & distance on my smartphone, I sometimes pulled out a ruler to measure, just for fun. Even the smallest of cities were on this map. Showing that regardless of size, every city in the state of Texas deserved their spot in history.

 

It was an amazing map.

 

But, I had no room for it in my new simplified life.  And I mean, technically, I had no room for it.  Between a full house in Stratford and a condo in Austin, I simply did not have the space for it.  It was the last item in a storage unit and the deadline to let it go was looming.  I was really struggling with what to do with one of my all-time favorite maps.  I finally put it on an online marketplace to sell and almost immediately received an interested buyer.  But when I researched the buyer, in my heart I was almost certain that they were going to resell it.  For all of the other items, that really didn’t matter to me, but for this map…it needed to go somewhere special.  As luck would have it, a second interested buyer contacted me.  I could tell from our correspondence that he could see and feel what I did for the map.  So, I agreed to sell it to him.

 

I had no idea how strongly I felt about this map until I was in my car, headed to our designated meeting point, the Cracker Barrel in Buda.  Because isn’t that the best neutral place to make a handoff? :)  I found myself unexpectedly crying all the way to the restaurant.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I had no problem getting rid of everything else, why was I so uncontrollably distraught over this?  It was just a map, for heaven’s sake!   

 

When I arrived at the parking lot and met the buyer, I knew that destiny had taken over. The buyer was not from Texas. He was stationed in Texas early in his military career and has loved our state ever since. He is a retired United States Air Force Officer, combat vet and Bronze Star Recipient. He recently purchased a cabin in rural Texas and wanted a large Texas map to showcase. It was joy to talk to him, to thank him for his service, to hear his story, to learn of his connections to Texas, and hear why he, too, loves maps.  Selling my beloved map allowed me the opportunity to meet this amazing veteran. 

 

In hindsight, I believe the map transaction was emotional because it represented a chapter that I loved and is now over. A chapter that brought me great friends, great associates, tangible success and awesome memories. But my story is not finished. And there are great chapters ahead. That map was my last memento from that chapter, but the page has turned.  And an exciting new chapter has begun. 

 

Thank you, Officer Smith, for your service and your courage. It’s an honor to know you.  I know that my map is in great hands and the memories it creates will continue.  Thank you for providing the perfect happy ending to this chapter.

 

And thank you. For also reminding me, that while we might carefully plan our destination…it’s the detours, side trips and extended stays that may turn out to be the best things in life.  That it’s ok to turn the page. To embrace change. And too look forward, not back. It took a really nice man, in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrel, to remind me of that.  

 

Like most of mankind, I am completely and utterly dependent upon GPS, Google Maps and Siri. However, I find great comfort in knowing that I have a 35-year old Rand McNally, folded, laminated map in my glove compartment that has been transferred eleven times from one vehicle  to the next. It may not be completely current anymore, but I know that no matter where I am in life, it can get me to where I’m going.   

 

Now my storage unit is empty, my heart is happy and thanks to the Cracker Barrel, my stomach is full of chicken & dumplings.  Life is good.

 

And if you need to know how to get somewhere and your GPS isn’t working, just let me know. 

 

I have a map.

 

 

Lorie Vincent

Founder | President

ACCELERATION by design

www.accelerationbydesign.com 

 

Lorie Vincent is a true trailblazer. She is a kick butt keynote speaker, writer, economic development consultant, marketing maven and chaos coordinator. She is the Founder and President of ACCELERATION by design LLC. Contact her today if you need some acceleration in your life!

 

 

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