My Google Maps Obsession

How a Quirky New Hobby Encouraged Me to Explore the World Around Me

Everyone’s used Google Maps at least once. It’s the GPS of choice for millennials, the finder of public toilets and ATMs, the easy access travel guide tucked into your pocket. So long as you have an internet connection, you can look up anywhere in the world with a few taps of your index finger.

What an age we live in.

It’s a useful tool, but how can you be ‘obsessed’ with it? 

Review of Etto Pasta Bar in Malvern, VIC, Australia.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, Google Maps has a feature which allows you to contribute information. This can be as simple as leaving a review on a restaurant you visited recently, or as complicated as creating a new place which isn’t registered on the map. Those who are spectacularly keen are able to register as a ‘Local Guide’, which allows you to accumulate points and displays a badge on your profile.

If you reach a really high rank, there are benefits to the role. I don’t care about that stuff, though — I just like watching my points total go up as I find more things to add. The higher your points, the fancier your badge becomes.

I’m skilled at delving into the mire of outdated webpages and social media to find business details like opening hours and phone numbers. The more information people can access via Google, the more likely they are to visit a certain business. If I’m bored, I’ll just pop onto my phone and see if there’s any places around which are missing information. It’s a great little time killer, and an easy way to support local businesses who aren’t so tech-savvy themselves.

Checking facts other people have added is the closest I’ll ever get to detective work. You better have your evidence ready, because I’ll scrutinise the details and reveal the truth. So, you know, I’ll search what you’ve added and find the same information. It’s cool.

Adding to the map is also helpful to the wider community. When I’m choosing a new place to visit, I take the reviews into account to make my decision. I only hope that my reviews help other people similarly. 

My most viewed image on Google - a picture inside the local gym!

The part which I enjoy most is taking photos of the places I visit. Photography has been a hobby of mine for years and I’ve enjoyed having something to prompt me back into it. The best part is that all you need is a smartphone, no fancy camera equipment required.

Something that normally seems mundane can be of the most importance on Google Maps. The bus stop on your street? Sure, it’s boring to someone who uses it every day, but taking a photo of it could help someone who’s searching for it for the first time. Perhaps you took a photo of a certain shelf in a bookstore you visited. That can be helpful, too! Although the Google vans drive around taking photos for the ‘StreetView’ feature, it can’t get up close and personal with the details of a place. That’s where the contributions from locals become essential.

It’s a different way of looking at the world. I try and imagine that I’ve never been to a place which I’ve actually visited countless times, and decide what features I’d want to see before I go there. My routine walk to the park becomes exciting when I’m seeing everything through new eyes. A sign for a local business, a glimpse into a building, all become potential moments to capture.

A parfait from Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm in Main Ridge, VIC, Australia.

Google Maps is like a portable travel diary. You can post pictures and facts about where you’ve been, and leave reviews with your thoughts on a place. There’s no chance of losing it, either.

I really enjoy scrolling through the photos I’ve uploaded. It reminds me of all the fun places I’ve visited with friends and the adventures we had there. Even better — I’ve started taking photos of the delicious meals I’ve ordered, so it also shows me all the great food I’ve been lucky enough to eat. The map shows pinpoints of all the places you’ve added information or photos to. As someone with a terrible sense of geography, being able to see all of the places I’ve been to on a single map is fascinating, though it does make me realise how inaccurate my perception of distances is. 

If you enjoy exploring new places and making memories, I’d definitely recommend contributing to Google Maps. It’s a travel diary for the lazy. It’s a conglomerate of human knowledge and experience all crammed into a smartphone screen. Most of all, it’s fun!

All hail our Google overlords. 

Jess Hast
Jess Hast

J.E.M. Hast BA: a writer, editor and artist from Melbourne, Australia. Usually found drawing, sewing, watching anime, collecting toys or playing with Prince the Flemish Giant rabbit. 

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My Google Maps Obsession