Without-a-map: Maastricht (NL) – Mt. Blanc (FR)


When I passed by the little bus shelter on my bicycle I knew there could be something precious in it… And I found it! It was a small map, the three letters of the tiny village read COO. This was the place I wanted to go. It was the first day, and I quickly took out my pen and paper and started to draw how to get there, this tiny village 60 km’s away, because I went “Without-A-Map”.

Last September I found myself in Maastricht with one goal: getting from there to Coo and back in 3 days, without any form of navigation, GPS, mobile app or map. The only thing I allowed myself to do was to draw (and I can’t draw at all…) my own maps of what people told me, from the maps I came across and take what people drew for me. It was by times quite hard, but overall very do-able. I think this is because it was 160 km, only going south and just 3 days. You can read the story of last year here.


This year will be a little different. A little bigger, and I hope a little more challenging. This year I will go from Maastricht (yes, yet again) to the Little St. Bernard Pass, close to the Mt. Blanc and back to Maastricht. This will be roughly 1600 km’s and my endpoint will not be on a map I will see somewhere in a bus shelter the first day. But the same rules will apply:

– Only make drawings from maps I see along the road

– Make drawings from what people tell me

– Let other people make drawings of maps

I will try to navigate with the sun, stars and make my own needle-compass. This means I will be delivered to the kindness, navigating skills and map drawing skills of the french and belgian people. Oh yeah, I don’t speak 3 words french and I feel totally awkward when I try…

But the question is, why in the hell would I do this? Things are so much easier with a map or with a GPS! Yeah, that might be, but I strongly believe that when you take away your pre-planned route, you have to observe the area around you way more. And by observing the area around you, the surrounding becomes more part of you. Details become more visible and stick more in your memory. Almost everybody uses some kind of navigation when traveling, with a little blue cursor saying: You are here. I do the same, and sometimes it comes in mighty handy! I got used to it quickly, now even when I go into the city, the little blue cursor tells me where I am, and within a couple of minutes I’m at my destination. Now it’s enough. I will remove Googlemaps from my phone, take a Dutch – French translate dictionary and a pen and paper. I will get lost, I will not go the fastest way, I will not take the best or most scenic route, I will just go where people tell me to go, or where my own drawn maps tell me to go. And hopefully I get to the Little St. Bernard Pass and back in 4 to 5 weeks.

Next to all these anti-gps things it’s just damn exciting, I have no clue if I’m able to go really without a map, where I will end up and how it will be in the mountains. How will I find places to camp with my tarp? What if people talk really fast French and I will understand nothing? I will just let them make a drawing… 🙂

The 27th of july I will leave, and hope to be back in the beginning of September. Trough this blog and my facebook page I will keep you updated! 

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