Well it’s official my 2013 travel season is over. I’m 33 miles short of flying 250,000 miles.

But let’s put this 249,967 miles into perspective.

  • I traveled around the world 10 times at the equator
  • I traveled to the moon and 11,067 miles back to earth

And now for my top 10 ways you know you traveled almost 250k in one calendar year (feel free to add your own in the comments).

  1. Foursquare congratulates you for checking into your home airport 4 consecutive weeks.
  2. The TSA agent checking your documents says “Weren’t you just here?”
  3. The Delta Sky lounge bartender knows you by name and starts pouring your bloody mary as soon as he sees you.
  4. You’ve flown on every international flight that leaves your home airport to Asia and Europe.
  5. You run out of toothpaste, deodorant and shaving cream in your travel case before you do at home.
  6. You start booking flights based on the airplane type and legroom (777, 787 over 330; 747 over 340; 737-900 over 320)
  7. You understand #6
  8. When booking tickets you instantly look for 24A or whatever your favorite seat number is. (I flew in 24A more than any other seat this past year)
  9. When people ask you “Where do you fly next?” you honestly don’t know.
  10. You forget what jet lag feels like, perfecting the art of sleeping anywhere at any time.

I am excited to see where 2014 takes me…..with trips to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil already lined up in the first few months. It’s going to be another great year of sharing and learning with educators all over the world. There is a lot of exciting possiblities coming in 2014. Taking advantage of the pause and preparing for the next big thing.

In the middle of completing my month long work/vacation tour of Europe and Asia (as I sit on a plane on my way to Doha), I keep reflecting on the experience that has been these past couple weeks hopping around from London, to Amsterdam, to Switzerland and Ireland and never relying on a paper map.

I didn’t have data on my phone, but what I did have was the ability to download Google Maps to use offline. It is a feature that came to Android last June. After experiencing using the offline maps the past couple of weeks, I really think the paper map’s days are numbered.

Why my digital map beats your paper map

Constantly Updated:
Let’s start with the fact that the map that we had in our guide book was two years old. Two years, it seems, in Ireland is a long enough time for roads to be built as we found ourselves on roads that didn’t exist on the paper map we had.

Where Am I Now:
By far the most useful feature is the ability to know exactly where you are. GPS works all over the world and by turning on my GPS and loading the offline maps we knew exactly where we were on the bus, on the subway, on the running trail or on the street. We were able to plot our route with precision instead of “I think we’re somewhere around here.”

Ability to explore and get lost with confidence:
What the GPS mentioned above allowed us to do was to explore with confidence. I was able to mark our B&B as a favorite on the map and then off we went. Walked around Amsterdam and when it was time to return home, pull out the map find where we were and plot a route home.

Ability to expand and zoom:
Your paper map can’t do this which is why you travel with a couple different ones. But on my phone the downloaded Google Map allowed me to zoom all the way in and all the way out to the point I downloaded the map from. Allowing me to see exactly where we were in the larger picture of the city.

Ease of carry and no folding:
Let’s face it, folding maps is never easy…..in fact I always used to see it as a traveling challenge that I had to solve. Now with the maps on my phone, nobody knows I’m a tourist. I just appear like everyone else looking at my phone and figuring out where to go next. I had the whole of Ireland in great detail in my pocket. Simply amazing.

Off the beaten path:
My wife and I wanted to go for a run in every country (mostly because we thought it would be cool to have it show up on our runkeeper timeline but also because we have a race coming up the beginning of April!). The Google Maps allowed us to find trails and details that were not possible on the tourist map we had. We were able to find running trails, to figure out our route and if we did get off track simply look it up on our phone. A great example was a trail we found that followed the subway line in Lausanne, Switzerland from our hotel down to the lake shore. We were thinking we would take the subway down to the lake, but after finding this hidden trail on the map we got an extra Km in on our run that we would not have known existed on the city map.

I could go on and on but I won’t. This is a game changer in all sorts of ways. Are we teaching students how to read a digital map? How to expand and zoom, how to orient the map to north vs the direction you’re walking and when to use both? Are we teaching the benefits of GPS, how to use it, how it works, and why it is a technology we all take for granted today but by itself is an amazing little feature built into almost every product?

This changes map skills, this changes what we need to be teaching students because the excuse of “what happens when you don’t have the Internet” just went out the window. With technology getting cheaper and cheaper, I wonder when a city might start distributing digital maps like this. Or what if you could check one out on a iPod touch from your hotel during your stay?

Game changer I tell you…..and one I’m not sure we’re preparing students for.

Well we’re back from our winter holiday to Prague, Vienna and Zurich. It’s 4am and I’ve been awake since midnight. I usually don’t jet lag this bad, but it’s hit both of us hard this time.

What can I say about our trip? It’s Europe, it’s beautiful and someday we’ll live there….it’s a goal and with the number of international schools there are in Europe a pretty good chance it will come through.

So this trip brings my wife to 33 countries and myself to 30. I’ll hit 31 the end of January when I go to Qatar for the Flatclassroom Conference.