by Neha Chinwalla
photography courtesy of Pexels
Though the experiences of traveling never truly leave you, it is frustrating to forget all the details and events of what you did on a trip. I, like many other travelers, was always afraid of letting go of beloved travel memories and wanted to preserve them in some way. It was this very feeling that drove me to start a travel journal during my family trip to Europe in 2014.
I purchased a beautiful notebook covered in an antique style map of the world and packed it in my carry on. Every night before going to bed, I dedicated about ten minutes to writing down the day’s itinerary and any funny or special moments. Not only did it help me remember the activities of hours before, but it has been proven that writing down thoughts can help you remember them more clearly. In a psychological study conducted at UCLA, two professors found that writing down notes by hand is an efficient way to not only take notes, but remember information more efficiently.
There were times I kept the entries brief, when I was more tired, or made a bulleted list of the day’s activities on the notes section of my phone and wrote the entry the next day. In my experience, I have found balance to be essential in the practice of travel journaling.
Another tip is to avoid relinquishing the present while on the mission of remembering every second. In the same way that taking so many photos prevents you from looking with your own eyes, realizing that the present moment will always be better than looking back on that same moment is part of the process.
However, I still find keeping a journal during vacations helps me reflect on my experiences, express gratitude towards my opportunities, and of course, look back on my travels. After keeping a travel journal for almost five years, I can say with experience that it has enhanced my recollection of memories and perspective on my prior travels.
To start your own travel journal, all you need is a notebook and a writing utensil. Though it is not essential, you can also pack a glue stick or decorative tape, which you can use to attach any mementos from your travels (boarding passes, postcards, brochures, receipts, ticket stubs—the ideas are endless). If journaling everything from your day seems overwhelming, I recommend simplifying the process by writing only what you deem important or special.
Keeping a journal during your vacation is an easy way to preserve the feelings you had while in a different place. Writing, even a few sentences, while your memories are fresh, will capture the traveling experience and freeze that moment in time.
If you decide to begin a travel journal on your next trip, remember that it is okay not to remember everything, and that stressing about it takes away from the serendipity of traveling. It is impossible to remember everything, but the point of traveling is never to remember every single detail. Enjoy the moment, and if you want to, write down what stood out most to you on that trip. I found that my favorite entries were ones where I shared stories from the day, rather than the entries where I spilled pages worth of event-based information.
No matter how you decide to document your travels, your journal will stand as a collection of memories, a gallery of where you were and what you did, and will remind you of how you felt in that moment, in that place.
Looking back at my first experience with travel journaling, in the moment, recounting my day felt burdensome or unnecessary. But now, reading those entries of my trip to Europe almost five years later, I am so glad that I wrote down those memories, for they will live on forever in those pages.