Bearded Germans Draw Delightful "Bucket List" Map of the World

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 13 2013 2:59 PM

A Hand-Illustrated World Map With No Roads or Towns, Only Adventures

Awesome Maps surf map
An earlier map by German startup Awesome Maps focused on surfing destinations around the world. Here's a close-up of the South America portion.

Image courtesy of Awesome Maps

We live in a new golden age of maps. Once the province of big, professional operations like Rand McNally and National Geographic, cartography is becoming a more democratic realm thanks to publicly available data and software tools. Thanks to online marketplaces and crowdfunding platforms, amateurs and hobbyists can now draw up maps with a niche focus and a geeky appeal and make a little money in the process.

So now we have maps like David Imus’ hand-drawn opus, which has found a market thanks to a rave review from my colleague Seth Stevenson. We have issue-focused maps like Alfred Twu’s fantasy high-speed rail map, which reignited a debate over the country’s stalled high-speed rail plans. We have interactive online maps that make a point or provide a public service, like Slate’s gun-deaths map or ProPublica’s impressively detailed New York flood-insurance map, which lets you compare FEMA’s official maps to the actual damage from Hurricane Sandy.


And then we have people making maps for the sheer fun of it. In that category is Simon Schuetz’s Kickstarter project to create a global “bucket list” map, filling in the borders of the world’s nations not with road markings and city names, but with lovingly scrawled illustrations of the one-of-a-kind sights you can see there. Zambia sports a cartoon of Victoria Falls; a silverback gorilla stalks the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Schuetz and illustrator Lars Seiffert have nearly finished Africa and are asking for donations to finance their work on the rest of the world.

Bucketlistmap Cameroon sketch
Illustrator Lars Seiffert sketches an illustration for Cameroon.

Image courtesy of Awesome Maps

The map is a more ambitious follow-up to the team’s previous three world maps, which focus on surfing, snowboarding, and soccer, respectively. Some might object that it bespeaks a privileged outlook to paint the world as a playground for recreational activities, to the exclusion of practicalities and political and cultural complications. But there are plenty of other maps out there that do the opposite. And that’s the thing—amateur maps like these don’t have to appeal to everyone, or take into account every possible objection. That’s what differentiates them from the sterile road maps you can buy at the gas station, and from Google’s ubiquitous (and now algorithmically enhanced) online maps. And it's what gives them a kinship to the wonderfully imaginative "here be dragons" maps of ages past.

Schuetz’s startup, called Awesome Maps, wears its irreverent approach on its t-shirt sleeve. The motto: “We’re German, we’ve got beards, and we’re making maps awesome again.” They are—and so are a lot of other people. It’s a glorious time to be a geography buff.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

The Secret Service’s Big Problems Were Reported Last Year. Nobody Cared.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
Oct. 2 2014 11:34 AM Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Putting teenage girls on trial may finally be too much for the Supreme Court.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 11:35 AM Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar’s New Video Is Somehow Both Creepy and Joyful
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:41 AM Dropbox Recruiting Video Features Puppets and Data Privacy
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?