Some games do a good job of recreating the positive aspects of the world map without implementing one, the two most notable examples being Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade. They still give you multiple modes of transportation, barriers which must be overcome with new abilities or items, and areas which are large enough or have enough splits and passages to encourage exploration of hidden areas.
Most games which have gotten rid of the world map, however, have done so rather poorly. FFX and XIII pretty much have no exploration at all. Tales of Hearts has these really lackluster connecting areas that are much uglier and more boring than a world map, let alone legitimately replacing one (in fact pretty much all three recent games in the series have had their own uniquely poor way of not having a world map). A lot of others have gone the route of SRPGs and simply made the world map a menu to select destinations from.
If the goal they have in mind is to make things less abstract and more realistic or to scale while still keeping the benefits a world map offers for exploration and accomplishment, that is definitely possible. Unfortunately, most developers seem to be just removing a feature without remembering to put anything back in its place.