Back in the day before the idea of travel blogging was a thing for me, I always been an avid sort of journal keeper, a little obsessed with preserving my memories and just remembering things. I had a personal blog (from 2003, aw blogspot~) and various caches of organizers-cum-diaries that recorded both my schedule and my thoughts all the way from 1997.
So when I started travelling on my own, that naturally extended to me keeping physical travel journals, which is something I continue to do, even today. My earliest proper travel journals were back from 2007, my grad trip to Taiwan (I actually have scans of my journals in there if you are interested!), and a semi-solo visit to a friend in France and Spain, but I have random souvenirs, keepsakes and notes on hotel stationery from even earlier which are stored in a separate box.
It’s kinda fun looking back now and flipping through these old memories – it brings back memories of things that happened that I had half-forgotten, and even some moments that I don’t recall anymore but remember again because I recorded them faithfully in a cute little notebook while in transit somewhere. I’m pretty sure some of my current memories are aided by the fact that I wrote them down. That act of recording helps me sort out the jumbles in my mind and gives coherence to stories that become, which makes for stronger recall and recollection of fun anecdotes :)
One of the main reasons I started The Occasional Traveller was as a way to electronically record these memories and sync them up with all the digital photos that I had, and it definitely makes it easier to find info, but there’s still something about the immediacy of scribbling down your thoughts on the go, and being able to stick a train ticket or beer label on to a spare page – it’s your most authentic reaction and it tells you something about yourself and the way you think. Revisiting these memories later on gives you perspective and reflection, and who doesn’t like a good ol’ reminiscence of their awesome past trips!
If you’re thinking about starting your own travel journals and collecting your own memories but have never found the will or way to do it, there really is no better time to start than right now, because… why not? I have a couple of tips that I think will help you start and keep this habit going – the challenging part about journalling (or blogging even) is finding that momentum to keep going, so this might help!
DO IT YOUR WAY
I can’t emphasize how important this is – these are your travel memories, so you don’t have to emulate anyone else, just find the way that works best for you. Don’t force yourself to keep lengthy diaries if you hate to write, or don’t lug around a DSLR camera if you like travelling light. There is NO ‘one right way’ to do it – I think people sometimes get a bit caught up in trying to doing what other people are doing, which is why they run out of steam so quickly, because it’s not something they enjoy doing themselves so it doesn’t come naturally to them.
I like to write my entire day’s activity and thoughts out chronologically, and sketch interesting things that I see, record photos of a place with my phone and stick physical mementos in my travel journal, something I do at the end of the day or while chilling out in the middle of a trip. It’s easy for me to keep doing this because I honestly enjoy being a little long winded and detailed.
You can use other people’s methods to give you ideas on getting started though. This is a non-exhaustive list of ways you can record a memory – I’d love to hear what you do to record your memories!
- Travel blogging (of course)
- Video – Vlogs of your trip
- Audio – recording ambient sounds of a place or keeping an audio journal
- Drawing – so much you can do! Detailed sketches, lazy doodles or fancy water colours,
- Photography – whatever type of camera or photography you like, or doing themed series that cut across your trip (e.g. bringing along a little mascot for every city you visit, or taking picture of a postbox in every town you pass through)
- Map pinning – whether physical or digital
- Scrapbooks – keeping boxes or folders of physical ephemera you find on your trip
The important take away is that there are so many ways you can record a trip memory, that you shouldn’t feel like you can only do it in one way. You don’t even have to be great at it – have you seen my sketches? I am definitely not great at it. (This guy has great sketches though, but he is also an Eisner nominee…)
MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
Don’t feel you like you need to record EVERYTHING. Most people give up journaling halfway because it starts to get too tedious, and it begins to hinder their enjoyment of travel rather than help it. You will never be able to remember everything, and unless you’re a little obsessive about having a full set of memories like I am, you don’t need to remember all the mundane details.
My travel journals usually start off really neat and detailed, but by the middle of the trip, things start to get rather messy and I don’t record as faithfully as I do. I have often left travel journals unfinished just because I get so tired towards the end, from the trip and the journalling. Often I keep an initial outline set of memories in point form so I don’t forget the stuff, and then I spend more time later on recording it in longer form when I’m in the mood later on.
I suggest that you start small and just note down the key things that strike you – Think about your feelings at that moment, and record pertinent names or details related to that event. I have blanks in my books or even on my phone notes for factual details that I know I can Google later on, but nothing can replicate your unique sensory memory of that moment later on, so that’s the key part that you’re trying to record down.
JUST DO IT
Don’t be obsessed about having the right equipment or the right way or the right time – just go out and get started! Like everything in life, it usually gets easier once you hit the ground running, so get out there and do it!
What do you do to preserve your travel memories? Share them here!