My colleague Erich and I were comparing how many countries we had visited, and that got me wondering if I could map out where I had been on various trips. Sure, I could get a world map graphic and draw a few X marks on it, but surely there must be something cooler....
And there is. Enter Google Maps, which wisely - wonderfully - welcomes the world to hack it to pieces and reconstitute their code in just about any way you like.
Hacking code is not something I'm good at. Fortunately, you don't need to be. DYI instructions aren't hard to find: start with Help, then on the #2 top question, "Can I add maps from Google Maps to my site?"
The documentation will help you add things like zoom and pan controls, as well as markers. Another big help I found was a site called Google Maps API Version 2 Tutorial, which is where I figured out minor tweaks (e.g. forcing the Satellite view to show by default.)
Once you learn the code for placing a marker, the only trick is to get the geographic coordinates for each location. Wikipedia has a good page on Obtaining geographic coordinates. But the tool I found most useful was the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names Online - just type in the city name and country, and hit search.
Anyhow, my "Where's Gorbo" map is obviously still a work in progress, but it has potential. My next steps will be to add an anecdote and snapshot of me in each location. Oh, and to ask my mom if she remembers when I went to each place...
Another nice thing is that the map is updateable, should I ever get to travel again. The way things are going, by that time I'll be so old that I'll need this map to remember where I've already been.
[Feel free to grab the map code from my site and do with it as you will - view the source code and grab the bit that comes after (!-- BEGIN GOOGLE MAPS CODE HERE --). You'll just need to replace the API code with one of your own.]