Interview 001: Stuart McArthur, Map Maker.

Stuart McArthur. Illustration by Bryn Beary.

[Note on Interview 001: I was first introduced to the south-up orientation of the world during orientation for my doctorate at Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2009.  Hanging over my advisor's computer was an "upside down" map of the world, looking both familiar and foreign. The reorientation of the map and what it represented (i.e. a challenge to conventional wisdom and accepted norms) stuck with me.  Years later, I fell down the rabbit hole that is the internet and landed on Stuart McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the world.  And then Twitter was kind enough to introduce me to him.]

Interview 001: Stuart McArthur, Map Maker.

At the age of 12, Stuart McArthur challenged the conventional north-up orientation of world maps, and drew one of his own.  McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World would later go on to sell over 350,000 copies.  Last year, Stuart agreed to answer some questions, and the talented Bryn Beary illustrated four of his answers.

Location: 37.8136° S, 144.9631° E

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1) Please describe yourself in < 10 words.    

Lateral, pragmatic, open-minded, can't multi-task.

2) What lessons have you learned from your experience of flipping the world “upside down”, with the south-up orientation of McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World?  

That watching a penny-drop moment is one of life's sublime pleasures.

3) Why do you think your map struck such a chord with the world?  

Like magic, people enjoy their disbelief turning into wonder.

4) What is one place (country, city, park, restaurant, museum, bookstore, etc) that you have never been to, but would like to visit someday?  Why?  

Marrakech for the colour.

5) What is your favorite traveling memory?  

Arriving with my three young kids and wife to our Austrian accommodation and discovering it was a castle built in 1150 as the summer residence for the king of Bavaria.

6) What does travel mean to you?  

Part of life's triumvirate:  Family-Friends-Travel.  My three priorities.  Life's three essentials.

7) Did your study abroad experience in Japan change the way you think about the world?  If so, how?  

Yes, I'd been fascinated by Japan for two years and was saving money to go by doing my mum's ironing each day.  Then the exchange came up and my parents said they'd pay for me to go.

8) Given your curiosity for our world, what is your approach to lifelong learning?

Our only purpose on earth is to accumulate experiences, for which travel is a prerequisite. Our greatest need is not shelter, food, or sex; it's to understand. We can read about an oyster, touch an oyster, have people describe oysters to us, but until we've experienced eating an oyster we don't have understanding of oysters.



9) How often do you go somewhere new (country, city, park, restaurant, museum, bookstore, etc.)?  

Every chance I get, and I plan my chances well ahead.

10) What is one thing (object, book, etc) that you have picked up along your travels/explorations that you value, and why?  

A hip flask made in the west-coast Scottish village that my grandfather emigrated from at the age of 6.

11) How do you prepare for a trip?  (i.e. Do you have a favorite guidebook?  How much research do you do before setting out on travels?)

Eyewitness guidebooks, internet, a bit of the language if possible, and public transport maps. The first thing I do in a new city is it explore it on foot to get a feel for the layout, because that's what the locals all have in common.

12) What is one place that you recommend others put on their list and why?

Copenhagen, because of the Danish concept of "hygge".  That's why they're the happiest people on earth. I've had many of my favourite travel experiences in Denmark.  I "feel" Danish.

13) What is your favorite literary travel inspiration? (i.e. any real place that has been mentioned by a writer in a book, poem, magazine interview, etc.)  

Originally it was The Drifters by James Mitchener.

14) Is there a song that you were introduced to on one of your travels?  If so, what is it and where were you when you heard it?  

Message In A Bottle always reminds me of London in December 1979.

15) What/who is your favorite traveling companion?  

My wife Kerrie, and then my kids.

16) Where will your travels take you next?

Cambodia next week, Bali in January, a cruise in December to see what they're like, New Zealand in April, and then Greece/Spain/Portugal/Germany in September-October 2017 for my 60th birthday.


  1. Bianca Beary

    I wait until the evening is quiet to sit down and read Pineapple Suitcase. Everyone is so unusual and touches on subjects that I would never research myself, but that I find fascinating and enjoyable in the format that you display. They are also not to long so I can read it quickly and then reflect. I have an idea that many of your readers might enjoy. What about at the end of the year you compile all of these essays on travel and make a yearly compilation in book form. I for one would buy them and give them as gift. They would be greatly appreciated.

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