When I started traveling with my wife we were in our early twenties. Actually, she wasn’t even my wife when we first started to travel! It was on a trip to Virginia and Colonial Williamsburg where I proposed and luckily she said yes. That part of the trip is still vivid in my memory, but a lot of the rest of that particular trip is hard to remember. I hadn’t yet started to keep a travel journal.
It was my father who inspired me to start writing down my experiences when traveling. Of course, I didn’t take his advice right away, and I didn’t take it for a long time.
“Just write down the places you went and what you saw on what day”, he said, “When you get old and can’t remember things so well you’ll be glad you did.”
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I finally heeded his advice, and he is right. The memories fade and the details go out of focus. I started writing my travel journal and now I can’t stop. I certainly can’t go on a trip without my journal and pen. It’s nothing too fancy, but I can re-read it and relive some great trips, or help jog my memory about a restaurant or attraction I might want to revisit.
Here are some tips for you to start your own travel journal:
- Keep it simple. My recommendation is to use pen and paper. A regular old blank or lined journal is nice to have, but don’t think you have to have a designer Moleskine. Just make sure it is sturdy enough and small enough to go with you on all your trips. Electronic gadgets are neat, but require a charged battery, and unless you are really diligent about organizing you digital life, it can be hard to keep all of your journal entries together.
- Don’t leave home without it! Of course if you do, you can write on just about anything, a hotel notepad, back of a bus schedule, whatever, but just be sure to transfer your scribblings into your journal when you get home.
- Plan time in your itinerary to write. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice sight-seeing time, just keep a rule for yourself that you will write when you wake up, get ready for bed, stop for lunch, or whatever works for you.
- It doesn’t matter what you write at first, as long as you do it. If you start with the basics and it sounds like a grocery list or a military schedule that’s OK, it will at least capture the itinerary. As you get used to doing it, try to be more descriptive. What did the outside of that quaint restaurant look like? Describe something special about the scene. Did something funny happen? Tell the story in your own voice. Years from now it will bring a smile to your face. Who knows – maybe you’ll decide to publish your memoirs one day and it will make other people smile.
- Connect with people. This isn’t as much of a travel journal tip as a way to continue your story. Putting a name to the memory will make it a personal connection with a person you shared a table with at breakfast, or the name of your Innkeeper. I like to travel with a set of little business cards that I print up with our names and email address. That way when I connect with someone I can have a little token to give to them to make contact with me later. I will of course write down their name and contact in my travel journal.
- Share your writing with others! Sharing is so ubiquitous these days that people can’t seem to stop posting to Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flikr, and on and on. These are great for short snapshots of your trip, but to really get a sense of the journey why not start a blog and put your writing out there? If you’re not comfortable with doing that at least share it with a family member or close friend to get their opinion on it. Fear of feeling silly keeps many people from doing something that they can actually do well.
I hope you start writing on your next trip. Go out now and get the journal and a pen and slip it into your suitcase so you are all ready for your next trip, and then tell me all about it!