My friend Christine was nice enough to stop by today to share with us some of her great ideas for recording your travels.
The other day, I was scrolling through photos from my trip last year to Cornwall, sharing some of my favorite stops and stories with my mom. However, I was alarmed to discover that there were at least 4 pictures that I honestly could not place. There’s one in particular that features an old boat. Where was that? It’s a pretty boat, but why did I think it was significant? I honestly can’t remember.
When you travel, each day is packed with new experiences. It’s wonderful… but it can also get all jumbled together very easily. I’ve gradually learned that savoring the experience of travel, and lovingly reliving the memories later, is about more than running up to a viewpoint, snapping a picture, and moving along. When you find different ways to mark your travels, it can turn into a wonderful story, hobby, decoration, and most of all, a fantastic trip down memory lane later.
So, before you set out on your next trip, take a look through some of these great ideas for recording your travels in unique and powerful ways:
Send postcards home to yourself
Postcards are classic travel mementos for a reason, I think. An image coupled with a personalized message containing a mini report of the trip is a great way to mark moments while you travel. What’s really fun about this method is that (1) it forces you to write in bite-sized but unique pieces; (2) when you get home you basically get to relive a “best hits” reel of your trip, just when it’s starting to fade from your immediate memory and turn into something that feels like another world.
Draw a sketch everywhere you go
My friend started doing this when she got frustrated at the “click-and-run” photography habits of tourists around her. Sometimes we don’t even get the chance to take in a view in the moment. We just capture it on our cameras and then tell ourselves we’ll enjoy the picture later. It’s ridiculous. Sketching a place forces you instead to stop and take some time. It encourages you to truly look at a place, noticing miniscule details that you might not have otherwise. Most of all, it allows you to personalize your views in a special way. You can record how you actually saw it and which details were important to you.
Make the pictures matter
This advice is twofold. For one, it really is great if you acquire some photography skills. Even with limited resources, there are easy ways to step up your photography game. For example, check out these tips for taking better pics with your smartphone.
However, the second part of this advice is even more important: personalize your pictures! If you’re just after a good picture of that lighthouse, or of the Mona Lisa… you might as well look it up on Google. I guarantee there’s a professional photographer out there who caught it better! And probably with magical dawn light or something like that. The best pictures are the ones that you are there for. Things that help you remember the memories, or make new ones. Take pictures that don’t just confirm that a certain place exists… but that YOU were there. In these cases, it’s really nice to travel with a buddy and make a deal that you’ll both take pictures of each other. Sometimes people mark their photos with a signature pose (feet in the picture) or a fun character (like the traveling gnome in Amelie).
Get something from each place.
I know someone who bought lingerie in each stop on our Europe trip before her wedding. I know plenty of people who like to gather magnets or stamps. Sometimes, my personal favorite way to gather souvenirs, though, is by grabbing things that are free and insignificant to anyone else. For example, I like pressing a flower into my journal whenever I’m somewhere beautiful. I have a friend who gathers rocks and marks them with a sharpie to remember where they came from. I have another friend who would buy a coin purse at each destination and store all her spare change from that foreign country inside.
Record sounds instead of just sights
This is a weirdly visceral way to record your travels. For example, to me the sounds of the bugs and birds in the evening in Costa Rica is so rich in memories. In London, a sound bite of the “mind the gap” reminder at every tube stop is so very classic. I lived in Tokyo for a few years, and I have a recording of the Yakimo man singing out his wares in the neighborhood where I lived and it’s so nostalgic to me!
Buy a guide book and mark it ALL UP
I have a friend who does this with each National Park he’s visited. He’ll note which hikes and drives he’s done and at what time of year, and what his personal review is on each. If he has a friend going to the same place, he’ll loan out the book, and it’s incredibly handy!
Record your travels on social media
If you’re not a longhand journal-writer, you might think of utilizing your digital skills instead to record your travels on social media. What’s nice about this is that it allows you to explore multimedia methods of recording. You can use photos and videos and audio in order to illustrate your written notes. If you use Instagram to record your trip, use a custom hashtag to help you find the applicable photos later. You can even use a service that automatically turns your photos into a photo book later. Other people might want to blog. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, where you buy your own domain, and work out how to promote and market it. If you’re just trying to record your trip, you can use services like TravelPod to just create your own place in the blogsphere.
I like to think of them as High School superlatives. This technique can be especially nice if you’re not really much of a journaler. Have some pre-canned prompts and take some time to fill them out at the end of each day. For example, “The favorite thing I ate today was __,” “I got most excited about ______,” “The biggest challenge was ____.” If superlatives aren’t your thing, consider just using a list format. Have a page for sights, a page for interesting people, a page for ridiculous moments, a page for the biggest wastes of money. Add to them as you go.
Invite people to sign a travel book
This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a lot of fun for people who are motivated to travel not just because of the sights they see, but also the people they meet. I love those moments when you connect with a young couple from Sweden on the bus in Barcelona, or when you spend an entire evening talking with an old regular at a pub in Ireland. Those experiences are golden. Gathering little words and notes from the people who made your trip so precious can be a great project.
It’s still, hands-down best way to record travels (or perhaps… anything). This way, you’re not just recording what you saw or heard, but how it made you feel. (I know, I’m getting a little mushy here.) That’s the magic of travel! It opens up your mind. That’s why travel is so good for things like getting over a breakup. There is just something about going somewhere else and switching up your routine that helps you feel refreshed. It helps you to re-examine your spiritual, emotional, and creative sides. Prioritize your journal-writing as you travel and keep it handy when you’re out and about so that you can jot down notes and impressions.
Do you have any unique ideas for recording your travels? If so, please share them with us in the comments below.