Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
Now you can circumnavigate the globe and retrace Phileas Fogg’s journey from your desk.
As the French playwright and novelist Jules Vernes once wrote in his 1873 book Around the World in 80 Days, “To go around the world … in such a short time and with the means of transport currently available, was not only impossible, it was madness.”
That’s not so much the case anymore, especially with the help of virtual maps. From London to Mumbai to San Francisco, you can at the very least virtually circumnavigate the world with programs like Google Earth and Google Street View. One artist did just that, using modern technology to illustrate a story that’s more than 140 years old.
Budapest-based illustrator Lehel Kovacs used Google Street View to create a collection of postcards retracing the famous journey Phileas Fogg took in Around the World in 80 Days. “This is one of my big-time favorite books from my childhood,” Kovacs says, “and looking [on Street View] through the places in the book is really fascinating.”
Kovacs started the project last November in between his freelance assignments. He searched for every location mentioned in the book, then sketched and colored what he saw. (The only exceptions are places like the Suez Canal, for which there is no Street View available.) There are 40 sketches in total, some showing the exact location Fogg visited—such as London’s Pall Mall, where Fogg accepted the challenge to circle the globe in less than three months. Others depict harbors and railways that the protagonist passed during his journey. Kovacs even included Google’s iconic Pegman at the bottom left of each card.
This self-proclaimed “maps fanatic” has worked on other projects in the same vein. A few years back, Kovac hand-drew a series of building façades based on photos found via Google Street View. His drawing style is simplistic, with pops of color here and there.
Kovac says that Street View piqued his artistic interest while he was working on a freelance assignment for an Irish newspaper. “They asked me to draw a specific Victorian-style building that I couldn’t find anything about on the Internet,” he recalls. So he turned to Street View and—voila! —there it was.
This particular project has already garnered interest from people around the world, including those from Slovenia, Australia, Spain, and Japan. The Kickstarter campaign, which has already surpassed its goal of raising $1,520, ends October 2—the same day Fogg and his trusty valet Passpartout embarked on their ambitious journey.