By Liberty Vela
Looking for a gift that reminds your globe-trotting friends of the places they’ve traveled? Xplorer Maps makes hand-drawn story maps that feature sketches of wildlife, landmarks and other iconic symbols of states, countries, and national parks.
Hiked across Isle Royale National Park, one of the least-visited national parks in the country, where moose and wolves thrive? Get a puzzle, mug or hand-drawn map depicting the rugged park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Sailed through the Alaska’s Inside Passage, a 500-mile region formed by glaciers millions of years ago? Get an illustration of the area, home to whales, sea lions and bald eagles, printed on a tote bag, shot glass or fleece blanket.
Two brothers, Greg and Chris Robitaille, teamed up in 2012 to create Xplorer Maps. Chris, an artist, has lived in Canada, Kenya, China, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and Qatar. Greg, a geography buff and entrepreneur, is based in Montana. Together, they decided to create hand-drawn, antique-style maps and gifts that remind people of the places they’ve visited and the connections they’ve made along the way. Their Texas-themed products, for example, include detailed drawings of a longhorn bull, a sea turtle, a cowboy, and Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, all superimposed on a map of the Lone Star State.
The company’s website includes a list of 15 states, 22 national parks and dozens of other travel destinations around the world. Customers can get images of those places printed on an array of products from maps and puzzles to stationery, chocolate tins and notecards. Prices range from $30 for a 24- by 18-inch hand-drawn lithograph print map to $25 for a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. A package of 12 notecards featuring watercolor art and pen and ink illustrations is about $50.
Xplorer Maps donates a percentage of proceeds from sales to non-profit organizations that share a similar mission – conservation and preservation of public lands. The company has donated more than $150,000 to nearly 40 different organizations in the last decade. If you’re heading to Montana, drop by Xplorer Maps new brick and mortar store, which opened recently in Missoula. For more information or to purchase products, go to Xplorer Maps.