Keeping a journal of your travels

When I was a kid, one of the behaviors instilled in me by my parents around the age of 5 was keeping a daily journal.  I look back at some of these journals and laugh at the thoughts that were going through the brain of younger pre-adolescent me, but as time went on and my brain got better at expressing itself, these journals have been a valuable source of memories that I otherwise would have forgotten long ago.  It’s funny how reading one single line that I wrote 20 years ago can bring about a stampede of memories that I didn’t even realize was still stored in the depths of my neural networks.

For me and I’m sure for many of you, vacations are some of my most fun times in life, and I prefer to hold onto as many of those memories as possible to reflect on many years down the road.  Keeping a travel journal makes this so much easier.  From my very first major international journey at age 12, I’ve kept personal documentation of my travels, and they’re among the most valuable things I own.  I prefer keeping a handwritten journal, though some of you may be more inclined to keep your thoughts typed out on a computer.  Either method works fine; the important thing is that you do it one way or another.

It can be difficult to maintain a full travel schedule and write a detailed journal entry every single day of your trip — and you don’t want to miss out on anything fun because you’re in your hotel room writing — so over the years I’ve come up with a more convenient system of journaling.  I’ll take a simple small notepad and a pen in my luggage and every day I’ll jot down in a very brief list format the things that I did that day and any important thoughts or feelings I had.  This is fairly quick and not at all time consuming; you can even do this on your phone using a note taking app.  At the end of my trip after I return home, I’ll take these notes and transfer them to my paper journal while filling in more details.  It’s important to do this within a few weeks of your trip while your memories are still fresh.  I also like to leave a little blank space here and there throughout my entries, as invariably I’ll forget to write something down only to think of it a few weeks later.  When I do, I can go back and scribble a few additional notes in those empty areas.

One handy piece of advice:  don’t just document stuff you did; write about the people you meet as well.  I’ve gotten in the habit of making brief entries about anyone of significance I meet during my travels.  Sometimes these people end up being permanent friends after the vacation is over, and after you’ve known each other for a while it’s interesting to go back and read the initial impressions and interactions you had when you first met this person.

Because these journals are some of the most important things I own (in addition to my photos), whenever I complete a journal book, I scan the pages using my Epson V500 scanner and form one large PDF file that contains the contents of the entire journal.  This file gets stored on my laptop, which is backed up to an external hard drive on a regular basis, and I also keep a copy of the file on a USB stick that is stored in a different physical location outside my house.  It would take a widespread disaster of legendary proportions for me to lose the physical journal and all three of these backups.

It’s a little tedious and can seem like a pain in the ass at the time, but I think it’s safe to say that most people will be thankful to have these journals in the long run.  If you’ve never done this before, I highly suggest you give it a try.  It’s one of the best ways to relive some truly great memories.


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