As a child, I had a large, very detailed world map covering most of my bedroom wall. It had everything, everywhere...I keenly recall seeing dotted lines between places like Bergen, Norway, and St. John's, Newfoundland (with stops at Lerwick, Torshavn, Reykjavik, Narsarsuak), labeled "steamship", others running up the NW coast of Canada linking places with names like Port Hardy, Bella Bella and Prince Rupert. It was an old map, and stubbornly still depicted dwindling colonial enclaves along the coasts of Africa, India and Asia (most of which no longer exist today as separate entities - Sidi Ifni, Walvis Bay, Goa, Pondichéry, Macao...).
Staring at that big, detailed map every day of my youth had a profound impact on my life, and I can still see it in my mind's eye. Among my prized possessions of the day were old atlases (that still showed huge swaths of the world claimed by European powers), and not just the complete Encyclopedia Britannica (which I spent countless hours reading, page by page), but most treasured of all: the gigantic Britannica World Atlas. That physically huge, massive book (it felt like a holy relic, or like something out of the Library of Alexandria) made a real impression on me -- surely the world was a vast place, filled with wonders worth exploring, far too big and complex to be reduced to something one could hold! Ahhh, maps...
I worry and feel sad for today's human population, who never having known a day without a GPS device in their hands, not only fails to appreciate the value, utility, and yes the beauty of a good map, (what a shame!) and from what I can tell, often seem completely helpless and unable to navigate to the nearest street corner when their gizmo fails.
Today, I still have a stack of heavy, large-format atlases at hand (best of the bunch: National Geographic's big blue tomes - if you know of a better one, please educate me!). We keep the NG Atlas of the World handy in our living room and consult it regularly (plus a growing stack of large format road atlases, from Rand McNally for the USA, to Michelin, Collins and more for Rest Of World)). Of course, I also make good use of the Google pretty much every day. And I'm lucky to live in a city that has a "map store" (Seattle's Metsker Maps, an institution here), so when I'm planning a trip that will involve driving, that's often my first stop (supplemented by amazon, for the more obscure maps of less-visited places).
For trip planning, I now make my own maps on the computer. It helps me "understand" the place and plan better. I know, not everyone's cup of tea; I enjoy it.
Cheers to all fellow cartophiles out there.