Tinkering around on Google Maps, searching for the city of Dubai, I made the strangest discovery: you can get there on foot.
On foot! Not that I'm going to do it - well, not just yet - but the idea behind this vast route map is beautiful. Life-affirming! Better than that: life-transforming!
I better explain.
I wasn't sure if Dubai was in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates or maybe even in Qatar.
So I click on Google maps - and by happy chance, my maps were set on pedestrian mode. Along with telling me that Dubai is in the UAE, I am also told that it is 4,702 miles from Edinburgh - and that it'll take me 59 days, 21 hours to walk there. That'd be walking at 3.2mph and without stopping for a pee or a snack. Middling tough. But not impossible.
What I love is the sheer level of detail in the route map. Starting off from Edinburgh Waverley station, there's no piddling stuff about "remember your passport", or "look out for ISIS when you go through Syria."
Instead, Google Maps knows that the most important thing is just to begin. There will always be lots of moaners mumbling you can't do it; Google Maps tells you to crack straight on, "Walk East - 125 ft." Nice! Eminently doable! That's only 40 yards!
Brilliantly, Google Maps doesn't get too far ahead of itself. Rather than sucking on its teeth and saying, "Over four thousand miles, that's one hell of a schlepp," it breaks the whole trip down into easily manageable steps. Finish one baby-step and then you can take the next baby-step.
Or in the case of my journey to Dubai, the second baby-step turns out to be: "Turn right towards Market Street - 397ft." Nice!
Followed by: "Turn left onto Market Street - 49ft." What's the problem with that?
This attention to detail continues all the way through the Netherlands, ("Turn right towards Wilde Zwaan - 105ft"), Serbia ("Turn right towards Starina Novaka - 413ft"), Turkey and then Syria, until finally, after a long haul through Saudi Arabia, our last instruction reads, "Slight left onto Financial Centre Road - 0.3 ml"). No ballyhoo, no drama - you've arrived, well big deal. How was your trip?
So many beautiful pieces of philosophy contained in this itinerary - not least that a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
I was now interested to check out Google's other walking tours. Were they seriously going to have a pedestrian route to the North Pole? ("At the Arctic Circle, head north; keep heading north.")
Maybe they could take me on a tour through Russia to the Chukchi Peninsula, from where it would just be a short ferry trip over to Alaska...
Unfortunately, Google does not (yet) have route maps for the Arctic or Antarctic, or even Beijing - though they CAN walk you to Vladivostok (a 7,329-mile trip from Edinburgh, taking 95 days 23 hours.)
And as it turns out, all those dreams of walking to Ls Angeles or Buenos Aires are also off the menu. Google Maps only does short boat trips.
The fantasy, though, was to see if I could find any Google Maps walking trip that was over 10,000 miles from Edinburgh.
First up - Cape Town. And Google delivers, with a tasty 8,128 mile-route (107 days, 17 hours) via the Trans-Sahara Highway.
Since South Africa was obviously going to be the limits of any trip to Africa, I'd have to head for the Far East.
I tried Australia, New Zealand, the Marshall Islands and New Guinea: all no dice. But Google Maps was definitely good for Sri Lanka (6,694 miles in 86 days, 18 hours - who ever would have thought that it was closer than Cape Town?)
Would Google Maps hold my hand all the way to Bangkok? Yes it would! (7,495 miles in 98 days, 18 hours)
Singapore? Yes! (8,591 miles, in 113 days, 13 hours)
Will Google Maps be able to stomach a small teeny-tiny ferry-ride to Java! The answer is yes! (9,623 miles, 126 days, 4 hours)
I am edging closer and closer to this mythical 10,000 mile walk. My fingers are shaking, the sweat drips from my nose (I must be allowed some small amount of poetic licence) and I tap in Bali. Yes! I can walk there too! It is 35 miles short of 10,000 miles at 9,965 miles (130 days, 19 hours), but there are still plenty more Indonesian islands to explore.
Now... what was the name of that island next to Bali. Nearly went there once, but didn't quite make it. Was it Komodo, with those dragons? Google does not provide walking trips to Komodo.
And then it comes to me - Lombok! And Google Maps will walk you all 10,069 miles there from Edinburgh. Should take you 131 days and 17 hours. She. Rides!
Turns out the record - or at least as far as I can make out - is to Sulawesi in Indonesia. It's 10,609 miles from Edinburgh, and it'll take 134 days, 16 hours.
But who cares whether you're walking to Dubai or Lombok or Sulawesi? The adventure is not in the destination but in the journey - as Google Maps knows only too well.
I do have two school-age sons - but the thought of an epic walking trip to Sulawesi does quite tempt me. Come on Google! Give me some half-decent sponsorship and I might even give it a go!
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