Monday, August 17, 2015

Keeping a Travel Journal

I remember the first time I tried to keep a travel journal. I was still in southern Africa, and had purchased an A6 notebook to keep a log of events on a road-trip. With a pen and my notebook, I felt like a pretty good writer—after all, not many of the other eleven year-olds on the trip were going to write about our epic adventures!

Folding open the brightly illustrated cover, I wrote the first heading. A while later, one of the other young girls asked to see my notes. I handed the book over, proud of my riveting work. (If I had been older, I might have thought it comparable in majesty to Journey to the Center of the Earth.) “Agh,” she mumbled. “It’s a bit boring. All you’ve got is facts. You don’t say anything about the animals we passed.”

I was deflated and a little indignant. Facts are important, aren’t they? You don’t always need animals! Heeding her counsel, however, I added a few details. “We saw all sorts of dams and trees. We saw donkeys, cows, pigs, and kudus.” (Living in England, I now realize how special the kudu antelope are.)

The A6 notebook is blank except for exactly two pages. I finished Day 1. The rest of the trip is relegated to memory and photographs.

This little story serves to remind me of the difficulties of keeping a travel journal—first, the quality of rough notes may disappoint the chronicler; second, the chronicler can get bogged down in too much detail for the pace of events; third, the chronicler may get too caught up in the excitement of events to feel like writing.

From then on in life, cameras took the place of travel journals, and photography was a much quicker medium of capturing moments anyway.

It was for our trip to Barcelona (link) that my family was given a travel notebook, and the idea of writing while on a vacation presented itself again. Since the experience was going to be part of book research (really, what isn’t potential book research?), I decided to give it a try.

A few tips came to my attention.

~ Travel with your senses on overdrive. This will help you to describe things later when writing in the hotel-room / tent / tree-house / igloo / whatever else.

~ Take lots of photos. You can’t possibly remember everything, and having a visual reference can jog memories like smell, sound, and taste.

~ If your trip is crammed with activities, make a quick list of what you do each day. You can write proper entries when you have time—like when your flight is delayed.

~ Bring back souvenirs. When you finally get to Day Six in your journal, you may have forgotten the taste of that bread or what those stones felt like. You may be able to bring some things home and describe them at your leisure.

And of course, if you want to, mention the animals you pass. :)

Do you have any extra advice for keeping a travel journal? What is the most enjoyable trip you’ve made this summer? Did you take, or would you consider taking, notes as you go?

Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.

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