The importance of geography


What inspired me to travel!

I recently wrote a guest post for ‘A Traveler’s Library‘ about how my parents instilled in me a great desire to see and experience the world by giving me a geographic encyclopedia when I was eight. When I wrote this guest post, I began to realise the profound impact this simple act had on me, and the unmistakable role it’s played in shaping the person I am today and the choices I’ve made over the years. At eight, I possessed a boundless curiosity in everyone and everything around me. A whole new world opened up when my parents gave me the geographic encyclopedia. The maps, illustrations and pictures captured my imagination and I realised that the world I lived in extended a lot farther than the boundaries of my neighbourhood. The fact that there were so many people beyond those boundaries who lived in different conditions and spoke different languages intrigued me endlessly. In addition, my fascination with the various climate zones and huge diversity of flora and fauna around the world ensured I was occupied for hours on end, pouring over the colourful pictures and illustrations. The importance of geography in stimulating interest in our world is undeniable.

Some years later, I had a circle of pen-pals (remember those?!) across the globe and through them, I learned more about their every day lives and cultures – my pocket money was spent buying postage stamps for those hundreds of letters. My experience has taught me that it was my early interest in geography, encouraged by my parents, that opened my eyes to the world and nurtured a great spirit of adventure. It helped to stimulate my curiosity and foster an open mind that is receptive to different perspectives and new ideas, as well as create a greater awareness of the environment.

And all this can be attributed to one simple act: giving a kid a geographic encyclopedia. Check out the beautiful geographic encyclopedia from Dorling Kindersley on

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26 Responses to “The importance of geography”

  1. velvet 01/10/2009 7:16 pm

    Funny that you should mention it. I started collecting stamps and coins at about the same time as I received the encyclopedia. When my grandfather passed away, he left his collection to me. I haven’t done anything with the collection in years though. It’s in a safe somewhere. 🙂


  2. Spot Cool Stuff 01/10/2009 7:10 pm

    Like you, I came to travel as a child through geography. You started with a gift encyclopedia. I started by stamp collecting. To this day my world view still includes countries like Rhodesia, Yugoslavia and North Yemen — countries that no longer exist in name but that had stamps that fascinated me.

  3. velvet 19/08/2009 12:01 am

    Thanks for your comment. Glad your daughter will be ‘graduating’ soon! Sure looks like you’re passing on the travel bug to your daughter. Awesome!


  4. Aye 18/08/2009 11:47 pm

    Hi Keith,

    What a great story! As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by maps and geography as well. In fact, I bought a shower curtain with a world map on it for my daughter’s bathroom.

    So before we go on a trip, we review it together and then when we return, we review it together. Soon she will be graduating to a geographic encyclopedia.

  5. Evan @ HomesAway 28/07/2009 7:11 pm

    Wow – this is like deja vu. I used to pore over the atlas (in my case, the big blue National Geographic one) as well, after reading the NG articles and looking at all those fabulously exotic pictures.

    Happily, we have a wall-size atlas in one of my son’s rooms and I’m always planting the seeds for their future global adventures (…and my continuing ones!).

  6. velvet 28/07/2009 11:06 am

    Thanks so much for your lovely comments! A special mention goes to my sister Judith who played a major role in my upbringing and who taught me many invaluable lessons.

    Leyla: that’s an awesome story! That’s definitely a very effective learning method (and fun too!).
    Carl: keep it up! There are some fantastic geographic reference books available with awesome photos and colourful illustrations, perfect for young kids. It’ll definitely keep them occupied for hours (like it did for me!).


  7. Judith.A 28/07/2009 7:58 am

    How time flies…
    Look how far you’ve journeyed!
    Had never linked the geographic encyclopedia n the atlas to all this.
    But Mum would agree it kept you occupied for hours n gave us all a respite from all your WHY and WHERE questions.
    Dad doing well.

  8. Scribetrotter 28/07/2009 7:11 am

    This brought back so many memories!

    In my case it wasn’t a book or encyclopedia but a simple game. To teach me to read and spell, as a tiny tot, my mother used sponge letters in my bathtub. She used them to form the capitals of the world. So as I learned to read, I learned the capitals.

    I soon graduated to stage 2, which was NAMING the capitals of the world. By the time I was five, I knew them all. Now that’s a good start to a lifetime of travel!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking and memory-materializing post!

  9. Carl Jackson 28/07/2009 2:30 am

    Hey Keith,
    I couldn’t agree with you more and have still got the atlas my parents had for us when we were little. Spent a lot of time on the floor pouring over far off places thanks for sparkinjg the memory.

    It’s now being used by my 2 1/2 year old to look at although he’s a little young to understand the geography he knows where he lives and where elephants come from.

    Great post RT’ing from

  10. velvet 28/07/2009 1:22 am

    Thanks Kirsty! Great to have those occasional flashbacks eh?! 🙂


  11. Kirsty Wilson 28/07/2009 1:15 am

    Hi Keith, thanks for your post. It brought back many memories of my own upbringing. My father is a retired Meterologist and so he was always interested in all the sciences. We spent many touring holidays exploring both southern & eastern Australia and pouring over maps as to where to go. I love maps, my 3 Atlases and even our Melways (local road map book of Melbourne!). Thanks for sharing and I’m glad to hear your Dad is doing OK too.

    Cheers from Down Under


  12. Andy Jarosz 27/07/2009 11:52 pm

    Nice post as ever Keith,

    As Ashley said it’s always good to hear what simple factor triggered peoples’ passion to travel. Do you still have the old atlas and have you looked after it? You will surely keep it as a family heirloom! Don’t you love studying an old atlas and seeing how much the countries have changed? Germany, Yugoslavia, USSR (mine still had Rhodesia and Ceylon, but then I’m older than you!)

    I am a firm believer that no home is complete with a good quality atlas or globe (and preferably both).


  13. velvet 28/07/2009 12:43 am

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, in fact I still have the encyclopedia and the atlas my sister bought me (in the picture). I totally agree with you. No home would be complete without an atlas and/or a globe!

    Best regards,

  14. Vera Marie Badertscher 27/07/2009 8:30 pm

    Keith: Thanks again for sharing your love of geography with the readers of A Travelers’ Library.

    Your mention of pen pals brings back my pre-teen pen pal from Wales. She sent me pictures of the coronation of Elizabeth (which dates me considerably!) and I was amazed at the way that people worshiped their royalty in England. Because of that experience, I’ve always wanted to see Wales, but haven’t made it there yet.

    I recently tried to locate her through Internet resources, but did not succeed.

    But thank you for bringing me back the memories.


  15. JoAnna 27/07/2009 6:27 pm

    Thanks for the great post!

    One of my favorite books is still my atlas, though I should probably get a new one because countries seem to change names and boundaries every year, and my dog-eared copy has definitely seen more than one birthday!

  16. velvet 27/07/2009 6:48 pm

    Thanks for your comment Joanna. I know the feeling. My atlas will make a great exhibit at a museum! 😉


  17. velvet 27/07/2009 5:28 pm

    Hi Ashley,
    Thank you for your wonderful comment. It is indeed amazing how a simple act can shape one’s life/path. Most times, we tend to overlook these small acts but it’s great to look back and realise the impact these small acts have had on us. Puts so many things into perspective.


  18. velvet 27/07/2009 5:22 pm

    Haha, thanks Jen! I’ll relay that message to my parents. 🙂 My Dad is recuperating. So far, so good. Fingers crossed!


  19. Ashley Bruckbauer 27/07/2009 5:19 pm


    Loved the message of the guest post on ‘A Traveler’s Library’ and its continuance here. I think it is so interesting to see how people first found their passions, typically spearheaded by a simple act in childhood or youth. The fact my parents were art collectors who toted me to endless auctions and galleries played a large role in my later interest in art history. Attending Native American cultural festivals as a child also instilled in me a wonder for traditions, customs, and languages different from my own. Most recently, reading a book based on solo female travel allowed me to see what is possible in this life.
    It is fascinating how one event can completely change an outlook and inspire how you live your life.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Best, Ashley

  20. jen Laceda 27/07/2009 5:18 pm

    You have wonderful parents! They’ve raised a good son. How is your dad doing?


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