Australian Artist Hand-Illustrates Bike Touring Maps

Alex Hotchin, an illustrator from Melbourne, Australia, has taken map-making to a whole new level. With her whimsical sketches and attention to tiny details, she draws maps of the terrain she traverses by bike: from Europe all the way to Southeast Asia... and beyond. 

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Alex Hotchin has taken map-making to a whole new level.

 

That trip from Europe to SE Asia?  18 months and 17,000 km.  I did the math on that one, in an attempt to wrap my American brain around the distance. Seventeen thousand kilometers is 10,563 miles. That would be the equivalent of doing my cross country bike tour (5,000 miles from Oregon to Florida) and then turning around and riding all the way back home. And then some. 

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The world is so vast, and Alex Hotchin inched through a significant portion of it by bicycle. Through incredibly different climates and cultures, though Scotland, France, Kazakhstan, and Thailand, she kept on pedaling. And much to our delight, she illustrated her adventure along the way.

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Through incredibly different climates and cultures, though Scotland, France, Kazakhstan, and Thailand, she kept on pedaling.

Confession: I'm a bit of a map nerd. And you know I'm an artist. So when I stumbled across an article describing this talented artist in a recent email newsletter, I was immediately a fan. You can read that article right here: The Storytelling Maps of Alex Hotchin. 

Maps are just... amazing. They show the world in a view that's impossible for most of us to experience, unless we buzz around in a low-flying airplane all the time. It's the eagle's eye view, the big picture. And it calls me to adventure like nothing else. Honestly, I get more travel-hungry from encountering a detailed map than I do from seeing a pretty canyoneering photo on instagram.  A photograph is just one snapshot in time, from just one perspective. A map, however, can be followed. To buried treasure, to adventure, or back to home.

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Maps call me to adventure like nothing else. 

 

Maps not only indicate where you're going, they show where you've been. As you traverse the routes, something happens. The empty, blank, sterile-looking contour lines become memories of winding roads and steep cliffs, of mountain summits and gurgling creeks you swam in. The map comes to life with your memories. When you emerge from your adventure, that little piece of paper looks completely different to you than when you started.

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The map comes to life with your memories.

When it comes to objects, I'm not a sentimental person. I get rid of things during a cleaning spree that I find myself longing for a month later. The prom dress that my mother sewed and I dyed by hand? I gave that to a thrift store during sophomore year of college. And I'm still kicking myself. The hand-painted masks I used for years in mask theater performances? Donated them to a middle school art class. All those tshirts, commemorating art camps attended and high school finished? Long gone.

But I can't get rid of my bike touring maps. And thank God, because I'm writing a memoir about my cross country bike trip, and it's a hell of a lot easier with my original maps as a reference. When the book's done, I think I'll frame them and keep them forever. As a memory of the places I've been. 

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Maps not only indicate where you're going, they show where you've been.

Or better yet, I'll commission Alex Hotchin to turn them into gorgeous pieces of artwork. And then I'll frame 'em. :) 

Alex recently published a book, Borderless. Check it out!

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