Pokemon Go’s Gym Map is the Perfect Travel Journal
I used to keep travel journals on all the family vacations I went to when I was a kid. My parents encouraged my creativity throughout my childhood, and I attribute my love of prose in large part to that, alongside the fact that I barely poked my nose out of a book.
Part collage, part scrapbook, sometimes part fiction, but mostly diary, I kept diaries until I was almost a teenager. Most of them document our travels around the UK, taking our trusty tent across the country. From Northumbria to Pembrokeshire, I have my wonderful memories bound in paper that I can look back on and remember forever. At some point in my childhood, I picked up Pokemon Silver, its big cartridge that popped out of the back of my Game Boy Advance, as an accompaniment on long car trips when my diary was done. These days, unfortunately, I journal a lot less, but I still play Pokemon.
Pokemon Go is the ultimate game to take on your travels, although some people disagree with this assessment. I took 12 months out of the game in its second year, but other than that I’ve been playing for its entire lifespan and catching Pokemon in special places. I caught Celebi in the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka in New Zealand, and a brilliant Metagross at the end of the road in Queenstown. I have a Chatot that I caught in the Australian underground city of Coober Pedy, an Entei from Kowloon and a Darkrai from Kyoto – none have been remotely attacked, before you ask. I’m rambling and remembering now, but that’s kind of the point.
I can scroll through my favorite Pokemon to relive my vacation, but there’s a better way. If you head to your Gym Badges list in Pokemon Go, you can select the map option in the lower left corner. This brings up a pixel art world map detailing the gyms you’ve visited, and I’ve spent hours scrolling since discovering it. This card acts as a journal of my Pokemon Go adventures, but also of my travels around the world, and it’s a great way to remember things you’ve done and people you’ve met in the game.
I zoom into a random gym in Japan and see a viewpoint overlooking Mount Fuji. I scroll to Karazawa and a badge reminds me of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten. There’s a large aquarium that I spent a day exploring in Lisbon, and the Hong Kong Cable Car is terrifyingly proper, but well worth experiencing. The thing about gyms is that they don’t just say “you’ve been to Hong Kong”, they point to very specific events or places and remind you of small experiences that might otherwise be forgotten.
The nature of Pokemon Go also plays a part in this. I’m not constantly on my phone when I’m away, I usually pull out my phone in the evening, in queues or in pubs and restaurants when I have a minute to relax. These quiet moments are the parts of the vacation that can easily be forgotten if you don’t write down your every moment, but they are often the most beautiful as well. I don’t remember much from my day at Go Fest, but I fondly think back to a sunset with a beer as I waited for a raid countdown or quickly catching a regional Pokémon as I was trying to translate a restaurant menu.
Pokemon Go is all about exploring, although the gameplay sometimes seems to counteract that. And exploration is the better way to play the game, rather than grinding XP or looting a hundred Mewtwos for a shundo. This little map, tucked away in a menu, reminded me of the joys of playing Pokemon Go casually as much as it reminded me of the journeys themselves, and I’m grateful for that.
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