Turning off the GPS helped this designer explore more.

By Jordi Lippe and Jordi Lippe-McGraw
March 01, 2016
paris map
Credit: archiepress.com

Using a GPS has become commonplace as a way to navigate around hometowns and new cities. That's exactly why designer Archie Archambault decided to create an ongoing series called "Map From the Mind," for which he draws maps based purely on personal exploration and commentary from locals.

"GPS has changed the way we explore a place," Archambault tells Travel + Leisure. "We used to trust the concierge's advice, or jump on a predictable trolley bus tour. Now, people are much more adventurous and independent because there's a giant database of local information on their smartphones. I try to take the mystery out of the landscape with my basic map so that the place is more digestible."

The whole project began in 2009 when a friend hand-drew a map of Portland, Oregon when Archambault first moved to the city. "It was just the things I needed to know as a newcomer," he says. "It was so helpful! I used it to get started, and as I explored the city, I built my own mental map."

Since then, he's been hitting the road and staying with locals found on Couchsurfing.com. Once there, he turns off his phone and reaches out to local cartographers, historical societies, local cartographers, and anyone who will talk about the top sites in the area.

Meant to be works of art rather than practical tools, the maps give you an overview of a particular city, with circles and blobs highlighting parks, attractions and other points of interest. Forty-one cities have been mapped out so far including Boston, New York City, Amsterdam, Kyoto, Vancouver, and more. Next up he's planning to cover Montreal, Mexico City, Calgary, and the entire state of Oregon.

"I hope my maps will help people understand where they are in relation to other neighborhoods," he says. "And give them the confidence to explore."