Messing Around with Maps

When I started this blog, I expected to post maybe once each time we moved, letting friends and family know where we are, basically. That email I send out each week I expected to go out with just one update in it, if that.

But this website has turned into a personal travel diary, and I’ve come to enjoy writing nearly every day. I refer back to entries to remind myself where certain things happened and to look for patterns in what I enjoyed and didn’t, and I amuse myself with my mood changes and attempts to be funny.

It’s so much more than I expected when I created it.

Formats and My Limitations

Back when I created it, I picked the simplest free template I could find for blogging, and despite my wishlist, I’ve tweaked it only a little since then.

It’s true I’ve maintained two websites using WordPress previously, but adding content to a site is a whole pay grade down from creating and designing the site, which, turns out, I can’t do. I mean, I could take classes on it and learn, but I don’t want to!

So for now I’m keeping this plain jane layout and making do, even though I’m not thrilled with the way it looks or works. I’m probably just obsessing over my wish-list for it because it’s the only thing I do on a computer these days, which is practically going cold-turkey. Gotta give myself something to peck away at a little each day.


One thing I do want to add to the blog, even if it means spending a lot of time tediously learning, is adding an interactive map that shows you not just where we’ve been and where we are but that’s also interactive: when you click on a marker on the map, I want blog entries from that location to pop up.

Now, I know I can do this because I used to work with really smart people who create these kinds of maps for a living. I edited articles they wrote about how to create these maps, but that doesn’t mean I could do it myself. They have advanced degrees in this kind of thing.

What I Can Do with Google Maps

But I do know how to create a Google My Maps, so that’s what I have going on in the image up top, plus a couple of images in the sidebar here.

Here’s a screenshot of my current map of where we’ve been, directions for where we’re going next, people we want to visit, our doctors. This I can manage.

My initial idea was to turn this into the interactive map I want. It does have a spreadsheet underlying it (if that’s the right term), and I can open the spreadsheet and add all kinds of data. Tracy, for example, keeps his own spreadsheet with so much information about each place we go that a person could probably turn our trip into an AI experience just from his database.

What I tried to do to transform mine into an interactive map for the blog was add the URL for the blog entries for a certain location into that location’s row in the database, hoping the URL would pop up when a user clicks on the icon on the map.

Thanks to my beta-tester, Finn, I figured out pretty quickly that Google Maps does not support external URLs. In other words, even after I created a version of my map with only the data I want to share publicly and added a few URLS from my blog, posted it to my site, and asked Finn to click on them, all he got was the screenshot here.

It’s got details of the location and the URL I entered, but the URL is not clickable or even copy-able. You’d have to write down the URL and then paste it into your browser to get to it. Nope.


That’s when I contacted a web-mapping specialist I worked with at the magazine whom I keep in touch with personally now (yay for friends!), and he pointed me to a plug-in for WordPress that creates just the kind of map I want.

Here’s my very first attempt at dipping my toe into this plug-in.

However, I’m facing the same obstacle making this map as I am with improving the look and functionality of my site: I don’t know what I’m doing!

The idea is to customize the look of the map to something that suits my blog’s style (that’s possible, according to the plug-in’s documentation). Plus I can customize the marker images and fancy it up in all kinds of ways.

Before I do any of that though, I will need to get all my places into this map. See the black markers in the Google Maps one? All the lat and long coordinates for each of those places I will need to insert into each of my previous blog posts. And I have a lot of previous blog posts.

Seriously. I need to:

  • Find the coordinates of a camping site on google maps.
  • Open every post I made from that camping site and enter those coordinates in, then save the update of each of those posts.
  • Check the map to make sure I didn’t accidentally say that a campsite in Oklahoma is located in the Philippines.
  • Move on to the next campsite’s set of posts.

I would also need to trouble-shoot some of the problems already popping up, like why does the center of the map move when you click on a marker? Why can’t I control what data shows up?

Again: above my pay grade for sure. Especially considering I don’t get paid anymore.

The Point of This Post

So, whatever, that’s what I’m working on, as long as I don’t decide it’s not worth it. Which I easily could.

If I’m successful though, then only one map will appear in the sidebar, not the three I have there now. You’ll be able to click on the map so it opens to full-screen, then click on any location marker to read my posts from that campsite.

For example, why did we go to Iowa, you might be wondering? Click on one of the markers in Iowa, and voila, you’ll see posts about all the fun we had with Tracy’s family and our friends there.

I don’t know … maybe this map would be interesting only to myself, as a way to search my archives, and therefore maybe I’ll work on it just a few minutes every now and then, and it’ll take me a year to get caught up.

Let me know if you think you’d use it.

Testing Nomad Map

I found this map plug-in after I wrote this post, and I’m thinking this one does the trick! I still have to enter data and figure out how to post it on the homepage.

[nwm_map id=”2″]

2 thoughts to “Messing Around with Maps”

  1. Ok, so I can see Edmonton on that map but where is Auckland? Hmmm?

    Even the stuff you’re doing with naps is way above MY pay grade so don’t knock your skills too hard! 😄