This essay first appeared at Where Is Your Toothbrush?, a travel blog.

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I love maps. A pocket atlas I had as a boy counts as a major inspiration for my travels—I loved leafing through the little book and dreaming of visiting all those distant places some day.

Central Europe in the Pocket Atlas of the World

Central Europe in the 1984 Pocket Atlas of the World.

Among my favorite maps to contemplate as an adult are those on which blank space represents areas of the globe unknown at the time. On these old maps, boundaries of the known world fade into blank space and only a blurry line separates humanity from nothingness.

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