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Flora Gosling explains why scratch maps are just made for showing off.

Showing off your travels has come a long way in the last 20 years. Social media has revolutionised the way we keep friends and family up-to-date about all the glamorous places we visit; we can share minute-by-minute updates about our wonderful experiences all without spending a penny. But it leaves us with the question: how can I spend lots of money in order to display my extensive travelling, and show people how cool I am?

Well, luckily there are now a plethora of products that do just that. We can buy 3D printed maps of our favourite cities; charms engraved with “Italy” and “Jamaica” to be strung on a necklace; make-up bags with “[insert destination here] is calling my name” written in sparkly letters, and many more. I won’t pretend I don’t buy this sort of thing myself - personally, I am a sucker for anything with “not all those who wander are lost” splashed all over it - but the one that really gets me is the scratch maps.

In case you haven’t seen them, these are essentially massive scratch cards in a map shape; every time you visit a country, you shave off the coating and reveal the colour underneath. It has the double power of obnoxiously demonstrating just how far you’ve travelled to anyone lucky enough to see it, and at the same time makes you feel unworthy for not having travelled further. It’s multifunctional that way. My biggest problem is that they promote the idea that you can “do” a country; that once you have had a couple of beers, visited a museum, and taken a selfie in front of a landmark, you have experienced everything that country has to offer. You can add it to your collection, scratch it off on your map, and move on to the next place.

"My biggest problem is that they promote the idea that you can “do” a country..."

In truth, some people have richer, more varied, and wilder experiences by travelling to the Lake District than people who have gone interrailing or backpacked through South Asia. The way tourism is marketed and the way tourists treat the countries they visit can often reduce travel to a superficial box-ticking exercise rather than something enriching. Travel should be driven by memories and experiences, not by destinations, and that can happen on the other side of the world or in your own backyard.

So, what should we do instead to celebrate our travels? Well, I think that the best way is to make your keepsakes as unique as your experiences: with scrapbooks! It can be detailed or as simple as you like, with stickers, doodles, ticket stubs, or just taping your photos to a cheap notebook and writing funny notes about what made that day special. At the end of the day, buying commemorative tatt can be fun, but don’t let your love of travel be outweighed by your urge to impress.


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