SWL: Travel websites

March 2, 2012, 12:39 a.m.
SWL: Travel websites
Courtesy of MCT

Have you ever wanted to see the world, but you just can’t find the time to do so? Maybe you didn’t get a chance to study abroad this year, or money is tight. Fear no more! MapCrunch will drop you off anywhere in the world, and it’s your job to find your way around. The trick is, you don’t know where you’ve been dropped off (unless you want to, of course).


The website is kind of like the stereotypical college student experience of backpacking around Europe, except you don’t actually go to Europe or go backpacking, and all you really get to see are the streets that Google has charted with its Street View option. Beware: when I first tried the site out, the web traffic was far too much for the MapCrunch servers to handle and the site crashed. This issue has since been fixed, and there is even a little “We <3 Tumblr” tag that pops up as the map loads, a nod to the blogging service that is largely responsible for their popularity.


Elsewhere, you can get your travel kick from the Find the Airport game, which has cropped up on sites such as Tumblr and Reddit in the last few weeks, taking the Internet by storm. It has also seriously frustrated a lot of lost “tourists” who are getting tired of being dropped into a field of sheep out in the middle of Ireland.


The game is played by navigating yourself to the nearest airport without referring to any outside sources. If you want, you can narrow down the options of where you are dropped, but your placement will still be random. Obviously, since the point of this website is to explore places around the world that you might not have previously not considered searching on Google Maps, you’ll see some pretty interesting stuff.


You’ll definitely become acquainted with the various roads of the world (odds are, they will be profoundly vacant roads through some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth), and you might wish you had taken a different route, but then you’ll see the random person who knew that Google was coming around to take photos of their street and decided to dress up for them.  Sometimes these individuals are terrifying (mass gatherings of people who look to be doing highly questionable activities) and sometimes they’re downright bizarre (several people trying to walk their cats, teenagers doing stupid things and, of course, a guy in a Big Bird costume).


Procrastination and potential frustration aside, MapCrunch and Find the Airport show how much there is to explore of the world, regardless of whether the location of the nearest airport is known.  If you ever find yourself with a few minutes to spare, need a study break or have a burning desire to see just how many open pastures there are in the world, why not spend some time getting lost in a far-away part of the world?

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