Tight floor plans, “sanity” walks, and the people you miss seeing: They turned up in your homemade maps of life during the coronavirus pandemic.
CityLab recently invited readers to draw maps of their worlds in the time of coronavirus. Already, more than 100 of you have responded to our call with an incredible range of interpretative maps, submitted from all over the world.
You charted how your homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries have transformed under social distancing and stay-at-home orders around the planet, from daily work routines and the routes of your “sanity walks,” to the people you miss and the places you fled.
While most used markers, pens, and computer-based drawing tools to sketch maps by hand, some used watercolors, clay, and photography. Some were humorous, others heart-wrenching — between them all, a full spectrum of quarantine-era emotion emerged.
Our submission portal for this project is still open, and we invite you to share your maps and stories here. Below is a selection of the maps we’ve received so far, with the aim of presenting a diversity of geographies and experiences. Accompanying the maps are some of the details you shared, edited for clarity.
Check back here often, as we’ll continue publishing more of your maps as we receive them.
“I deeply appreciate the privilege of where I live”
While drawing this map, I felt increasingly curious about how my neighborhood evolved. I particularly loved drawing the looming redwoods and clashing architecture.
While drawing my favorite businesses in the area, I took some artistic liberty with their roofs for fun. To be honest, I took artistic liberty with the whole map because I couldn’t remember the exact details of the buildings and their foliage. Even though this map isn’t accurate, looking at it makes me deeply appreciate the privilege of where I live during these strange times. Like everyone, I can’t frequent the businesses or really leave the house, but I still check in on neighbors virtually.
— Aditi Shah, Berkeley, California
“Hectic, to say the least”
I’m in graduate school and I’m staying with my mom, dad, and four younger siblings until I can move out in early May. It’s hectic, to say the least!
Things have changed: So much leisurely strolling and biking! Saving money by only going out for necessities! I’ve also really fallen in love with how cute Tampa bungalows are. I forgot!
— Alayna Delgado, Tampa, Florida
“The little things we took for granted.”
I have mapped the places that are etched in my memories. Being raised in a neighborhood that is socially very active and is located in the heart of downtown with all the necessary facilities available nearby has enabled me to make unforgettable memories, a glimpse of which I have shown in the map.
After living in a hostel for four years in a different city (Lahore), I had just come back to my hometown, but this sudden epidemic has made us realize the little things we took for granted. Coronavirus has no doubt changed our lives by making us stay indoors. I feel very nostalgic when I think about the activities that I used to do. Before Covid, I had a daily morning walk in the nearby park, went to the grocery weekly, shopping, hangouts for everything. But the activities have been minimized to zero. For now, my relationship with the neighborhood is limited.
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From my place of peace, I imagine that the southern trees absorb the virus that comes from the north.
A lot has changed: We communicate more, we collaborate for food purchases and we are in solidarity with each other.
— Claudia Canedo Velasco, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
“Much of life here revolves around the bayou”
Just a quick sketch of Lacombe. Most residents here live along a bayou that feeds into Lake Pontchartrain, but there is a small “downtown” near a bend on Highway 190. I wanted to include Bayou Adventure, which functions a little like town hall for Lacombe. They sell bait, rent kayaks, and sell hot food and beer. Sal & Judy’s is a staple Sicilian restaurant in town. Lafontaine Cemetery is where a yearly All Saints Day candle lighting is held. Bayou Lacombe is the only true “main street.”
The Tammany Trace, a bike/pedestrian trail on an old railroad, is shut down and the drawbridge over the bayou is stuck in the “up” position. Sal & Judy’s only offers take-out, as does Bayou Adventure. Local bar Da Crab Trap is closed temporarily. We’re fortunate that much of life here revolves around the bayou, and that’s still open. It’s easy to maintain a six-foot distance, but Lacombe is a small town and you miss those little conversations after work stopping in Bayou Adventure or Da Crab Trap.
— Brennan Walters, Lacombe, Louisiana
“I hope we don’t go back to the way it was before”
My map shows my house. After spending two weeks staying at home working and learning there, it’s like our world has shrunk into it. Only leaving for running and occasional shopping. The city seems so quiet and tranquil, the birds and the cats seem to like it.
All the cars are parked in the driveways, which is a nice change. We live close by a busy street and we feel there is a big difference in noise during rush hours. We see people going out more for biking and running than before. It’s overall a positive change. I hope we don’t go back to the way it was before, at least not all the way.
— Edda Ívarsdóttir, Iceland
“Everyone is outside more”
My map is focused around regular walking routes in our neighborhood. It shows the actual boundaries of Eastwood, a neighborhood within East Nashville, but the focus is the landmarks that my family has been frequently visiting during the pandemic.
During recent walks, we have developed much better relationships with our neighbors because everyone is outside more.
“My neighborhood has grown to ignore all state borders”
This is a map of the United States, as defined by where my friendships are. I just moved to San Diego, and have no attachment to it as a city. The cities I’m attached to are thousands of miles away from me, and I dearly miss the people in those cities. Quarantine has shrunk my world to just my house, but at the same time has reminded me that my world is much, much wider, and my connections span not only the country but the globe.
San Diego never felt like my neighborhood. It’s new. I didn’t choose to move here. I don’t know my neighbors, and they don’t know me. Now, due to self-isolation, I will not have the chance to explore the neighborhood or surrounding areas. I will not get to know the people. I will stay inside and talk to the people I already know.
It doesn’t matter if the people I know are one house away or 10 states away. They’re all equally accessible. As such, my neighborhood has grown to ignore all state borders and has become the people I loved before this crisis. I’ve been talking to friends daily, and have even had friends from separate groups meet one another. My neighborhood feels immensely spread apart and inaccessible, but my community feels very real.
— Ezra Silkes, San Diego, California
“I’ve noticed both kids getting more granular”
My son Jack will be six this year. We sat down and he wrote out the names of 10 places we walk by during our daily treks around the Northside of Richmond. (We are lucky to have plenty of sidewalks, his current and future schools, and many friends within walking distance.) He then drew our house on the map and guessed where things were. He added a river in our backyard for some reason, which would actually be very lovely to have right now.
Both of our kids (Jack’s sister Thea is 12) used to have the entire city as a neighborhood — bus trips and car trips to farmer’s markets, grandparents, ice cream shops. For the past month, our neighborhood has compressed into a two-mile radius. I’ve noticed both kids getting more granular. Thea is taking close-up photos of flowers, rocks, etc. on our walks. Jack wants to explore the alleys.
“An element of fear as we venture out for necessities”
More than ever, our little terraced house and garden have become a special sanctuary as we try to keep our family and those around us safe.
On the one hand, [there is] an element of fear as we venture out for necessities, yet on the other, a heightened feeling of compassion with our neighbors and with strangers, as we jointly face this challenge.
— James Hennessey, Northern Ireland
“So many places close by, yet nowhere to go”
Now that public transit is closed except for essential travel, my wanderings are limited to walking and running within about a five-mile radius from my home. On foot, the Potomac River seems more pronounced as a physical barrier, separating Washington, D.C., from me in Arlington, Virginia.
Although my neighborhood has always been walkable, the coronavirus emergency has changed my relationship to my neighborhood because most of the places I used to frequent are now closed. Having so many places close by and yet nowhere to go feels very paradoxical.
[My map] shows the site plan of my neighborhood, my routine during lockdown, my home and its plan.
We are getting to know our neighbors more as they are at home. There is cooperation and understanding between the neighbors. All are following the rules of lockdown and taking necessary precautions.
— Mrunmayi Sarvade, Solapur, Maharashtra, India
“It has disrupted the most essential element of city life”
Famous streets, cafes, beaches, and train stations [show the changing] relationship to public space during the pandemic. Milan’s cafes, Times Square, the Champs-Élysées, and even mosques, temples, and churches are free of humans.
The global pandemic has made society united in humanity’s survival. But it has also disrupted the most essential element of city life: public life.
— Nawaf Al Mushayt, Lisbon, Portugal
“My experienced world is now that of a four-year-old child”
After being restricted to taking walks no longer than 200 metres from home, I decided to map this area, counting in paces and measuring angles with a carpenter’s ruler. This way, I began to get familiar with the little world to which I was confined but did not know in detail.
My experienced world is now that of a four-year-old child — it’s interesting to go back there again.
— Richard Dury, Arzago d’Adda (Bergamo), Italy
“The Red and Black God is Netflix”
Being stuck in my apartment for the last few weeks, any adventures or grand journeys I go on have to be scaled down to match. (And since some of my friends were confused, the Red and Black God is Netflix.)
Everything seems so much farther away. Even the post office a few blocks away feels like a dangerous journey now.
— Stentor Danielson, Bellevue, Pennsylvania
“Nature is more apparent to me”
My map presents the magnificent trees on my walk around the block, all different in their shape, size, blooms and fauna they attract. I am dwarfed by enormous gum and fig trees, delighted by butterflies, enchanted by mushrooms in the sidewalk grass. The olive trees hearken to folk tales — it’s a rarity in Sydney’s climate to have any tree that bears fruit. It’s a pleasure to observe nature’s rhythms.
Working from home, I take these walks around the block and quiet backstreets. I enjoy the scent of jasmine, lorikeets squawking, butterflies in lilac hedges. With less cars and people around, nature is more apparent to me.
— Stephanie Bhim, Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
About the Author
Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.
Jessica Lee Martin
Jessica Lee Martin is the audience development editor for CityLab. She previously worked at Guardian US, Democracy Now!, and Wisconsin Public Television.