DIY: A Map of Memories

“Two drifters off to see the world… there’s such a crazy world to see….”

Our December vacation to the Virgin Islands meant that we would be spending Christmas and New Year abroad. As magical as that sounded; it also meant Christmas presents would be exchanged abroad! How exciting… although I’m not really sure any gift can top meeting my love on Christmas Eve in New York City, finding the Rockefeller Tree, walking to Times Square in the rain and then warming up with hot chocolate and ginger cookies in a sweet little apartment somewhere in Brooklyn but I’d like to think this comes pretty close 🙂


Ash loves to travel just as much as I do (if not more) and since we decided this year we would be making gifts instead of exchanging regular store bought ones, making a map of memories was the perfect idea! I’d been playing with the thought of making him a map marking all the places he’s adventured in for a few months now. Travel has been such a fundamental part of our lives over the last few years. The adventures and journeys we’ve been on have changed us in so many ways that coming up with a way to document all of his memories from different places seemed like the perfect idea.

At the time, Ash had been to over twenty different countries and while I knew a few of them, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t leaving out any. Of course I couldn’t very well ask him directly because that would give up the surprise so I had to be a little sneaky instead. He’s always telling that I’ve seen more places that he has, so I used that to my advantage and over the next few weeks I pretended that it would be a great idea to play game where we list all of the countries we had visited. You know… just to see who had traveled more! Since we usually spend an hour or two video calling before bed that made it the ideal time to play the game and gather all the information I needed.

Once my list was finalized, over the next few days I spent some time jotting down a few ideas of additional things I wanted to put on the map. These were special memories to him and us, travel quotes, pictures of places still on our bucket lists, song lyrics and special dates. My initial plan was to actually sketch a world map but while wandering in a book store here in Cape Town, I came across a glow in the dark world map.

My first idea was to actually attach the pictures using push pins. That would have been fine if the map could have actually fitted into my checked luggage! Unfortunately I’ve had my fair share of experiences with delayed luggage and I didn’t want to take the chance that he might not get his gift on Christmas. Also, one of our goals was to travel light and that meant smaller bags. The map was around 690 mm x 1000 mm and the length of my suitcase was smaller. That wasn’t a problem because I had bought an adjustable drafting tube. My plan was to roll up the map and carry it with me as hand luggage slung across my shoulder but that also meant I couldn’t use push pins since I would travelling across four continents and through a lot of airport scanners and border control counters. I didn’t want to take any chances of the present being confiscated.

Plan B:

Find little tags with string. Stick pictures on tags. Sew tags to map!

I found a little embroidery store in Durbanville that actually sourced all kinds and colors of thread. They also have a counter for little crafty things so I was able to find some pretty white tags there too. Using the list of countries from our game, I began doing some research and saving pictures of memories from all the countries he had been too. What better way to find them than on his social media pages and his blog!

travel tags

I resized the images, printed them out and began making the travel tags. I also printed the names of the exact cities he visited and stuck those under the picture on the tag.

travel tags

travel map, travel tags, memories

The next step was to begin sewing them to the map.

travel map of memories, sewing

One by one, they were sewed on using a French knot .

travel map

Slowly but surely the map started to get pretty full… particularly around Asia since we’d each spent some time living there.


I used a marker and drew on some travel tracks.

travel map quotes

travel map of memories

Stuck on some quotes.

travel memory map

Then added some dreamy pictures of places still on our bucket list and a few special dates.

travel map of memories

The end product: A glow-in-the-dark Map of Memories!

travel map of memories


The map itself was actually one part of his Christmas present. The idea behind the map is that in addition to marking down the places visited, he also needs to find a piece of art or  capture a creative shot and frame that. The framed piece should be hung around the map itself and linked to each location on the map via a piece of string so that years from now, he can sit back with a glass of wine and look at all the memories of a life well traveled.


Posted by

I'm Shalinee - a Geminian scientist who loves to travel, write, draw and eat chocolate. I've visited over twenty countries, published a Environmental Science encyclopaedia and somewhere along the way started a science communication company to help students and corporates translate that hard-to-read data generated in a lab. Other than that, I'm just searching for the magic still hidden in the world.

3 thoughts on “DIY: A Map of Memories

What are your thoughts?