Plotting my travels

My Grandparents were very proud of Dad’s travels with the Merchant Navy. On the wall of their home was a world map, with pins to show all the different places he’d visited. I used to spend hours looking at those pins and wondering.

Since 2010 I’ve been using Foursquare and its later stablemate, Swarm. These two apps allow you to check in to places you visit, find new places, read and write reviews. They’re a bit like a very detailed, user-led version of TripAdvisor. You’ll find lots of your local high street businesses have been added by customers, as well as the tops of mountains, or beaches.

Swarm is gamified to encourage people to keep checking in and become the Mayor of different locations. That’s always felt pretty worthless to me. Although for a while Whetherspoons were offering discounts to Mayors of their pubs.

Foursquare is incredibly useful and with independent reviews, ideal for finding places to eat and visit in strange cities. In 2012 we spent a whole weekend navigating the best tapas bars of Barcelona using only Foursquare. Foursquare didn’t let us down.

I leave reviews (or tips as they’re known), in the hope they’ll prove useful to others and maybe help the business who owns the location. Users receive some interesting data back on how many times their tips have been viewed and liked.

Mapping your travels with Foursquare and Fusion Tables

Until recently I didn’t have a way to look back at check-ins. My work and a honeymoon has meant some interesting travel in the past few years. I was fairly certain that a global map, like the one my Grandparents had, would tell an interesting story.

I stumbled across this blog, last week, describing how to export Foursquare data and present it in a Fusion table and Google map. This is dead simple and a great way to get you, family and friends thinking about where you’ve been or the areas of a country that you frequent the most (you can create heat maps, instead of pins).

I think it’s also a nice example of how free data behind a fairly utilitarian social media app can be easily extracted and plotted to a map, thanks to fantastic tools like Fusion Tables.

Here are my travels from the past couple of years: