MAPS.ME: A very handy offline map for travelers

If you’re one of those rare souls who aren’t connected all the time but have yearned for a good electronic atlas, MAPS.ME may be the next best thing.

Maps.ME gives wonderful detail and has a useful search function.

MAPS.ME gives wonderful detail and has a useful search function. (Sorry for the dark image — used another new app, Mobizen, for capturing the screen image but haven’t quite mastered the details.)

I’m one of the few who have yet to adopt a smartphone, but I do rely on my Nexus 10 tablet for a few things during travel.  The offline atlas that I’ve wished for may be here in its closest form with this Android app.

MAPS.ME is available for free in the Google Play store.  I also found it in Amazon’s Andoid App Store, but not the iTunes Store.

I’ve always been a hard-copy map guy.  The size and detail of an atlas or a laminated foldup map appeal to me far more than the miniature, highly focused capsules of the world given to us in a standard GPS screen, and I’ve seen too many folks who are slaves to their GPS while being completely unaware of their surroundings. Continue reading

Australian travel videos: A quick, incomplete primer

Click to visiti Lonely Planet's YouTube channel video on Uluru.

Click to visit Lonely Planet’s YouTube channel video on Uluru.

A little research goes a long way in virtually any area, and travel videos are no different. It helped me turn a quick review of one video into a discovery of a couple of other video sources that I’ll link toward the end of the post.

The post started as a review of another International Programs offering, a video on Southeastern Australia that was also produced by Lonely Planet.  While the 45-minute disc, featuring former English footballer, travelogue host and comedian Ian Wright, was not exactly to my taste, it might be worth the time spent for some COMM 373 student.  The disc can be checked out from the IP office.

I found the video less informative and only slightly entertaining; perhaps it’s Wright’s style that doesn’t do much for me.  Quirky like much of Lonely Planet’s work, the 2005 video focuses mostly on five different cities in the Australian Southeast, but the focus is often scattered, overly brief or lengthy, and trivial.  Frankly, had I seen this on TV, I might have switched channels in the first five minutes, most of which was spent on Wright making light of an annual country music festival in Tamworth, the “Nashville of Australia.”

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Late at night, the boabs cut loose and wander about

(Lonely Planet’s Australia guidebook)

Highly recommended

Highly recommended

UWSP’s International Programs office keeps several of the well regarded Lonely Planet guides, including the 2013 edition of its 1,106-page Australia guide to the entire country.  One would expect this publisher’s Australian guides to be particularly good, as the company is based in Melbourne, and its story (which is included in the back of most of its guides, as well as online) will probably appeal to the average student, as it involves a beat-up car, a penurious budget and an idea.

Lonely Planet says great guidebooks should “inform, educate and amuse,” and most readers would likely agree that this book does a solid job of that.  Its sheer size means there’s plenty of information; that raises questions about whether it’s too massive to cart around on a short-term trip or whether it’s more than is needed for students who will generally be limited to the southeastern portion of the country.  It will definitely be useful for those able to do post-trip travel to other parts of this equally massive country (the world’s sixth-largest — the U.S. is fourth and about 20 percent larger than Australia).

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