Logic brings you from A to B. Imagination brings you everywhere. ~ Albert Einstein
When I was a kid, I loved to draw (fake) maps. I spent hours making up own country, usually going by the name of Jasperland. I’d draw cities, rivers, mountains, and desserts. I imagined coastlines and fields of far-away places. And beyond that, I could spend hours going through the atlas or starting at the map of Europe on my wall.
You can definitely say that maps were the passion of my youth. And although I still enjoy maps, I would say that happiness is my current passion. In any case, when I saw a TED talk on ‘happy maps’, it sure triggered me.
Data analyst Daniele Quercia combines the same two passions, maps and happiness, in a talk. Though he has used a bit too many public speaking tricks, his story seems authentic. Everyday, Daniele cycled to work. As advised by his mapping app, he took the shortest route, which happened to go over a car-packed big city avenue in Boston. One day, for some curious reason, he happened to take a side street instead and noticed the difference: he went through quiet streets with trees and breathing space instead of beeping cars.
Daniele figured that many people were like him, sacrificing quietness, beauty, and ultimately happiness for efficiency. If you lose three minutes going through a park instead of a normal street, your brain wins oxygen and your mind wins calmness.
Based on these realisations, he asked people what places they preferred, and created a mapping app that offers you the happiest, prettiest, and quietest route instead of only the shortest one.
Watching the talk made me think about how I go to the office myself. I live a fifteen-minute ride away. I don’t go through big avenues on my ride, but it is true that I get a fair amount of traffic. I do pass a park, but I am only outside of it. With a detour of three to five minutes, I go through the entire park. I’ll give it a try this week. I am curious to discover whether the maps I will be in touch with can help me discover better places and enter a state of happiness – just like when I was drawing them as a kid.