I started writing a travel journal way before I started blogging, back in 2011 in Ghana. Even once I started Where Charlie Wanders, I carried on journaling for my bigger trips. I never go on an adventure without a notepad and a pen packed in my hand luggage. I am now on my 5th notebook and am not going to be stopping anytime soon. In a increasingly digital world, more and more online, here is why I still write a travel journal.
A travel journal preserves memories
I read back over my travel journals time and time again. One of my favourite games is to read them back a year, two years, three years on and play ‘on this day 3 years ago I was….’
No matter how good your memory is, little details are going to slip as time passes. Writing things down in the moment gives much more richness and depth to the memories.
Call me crazy but I truly believe reading things back in my own handwriting takes me right back to that moment. Even years down the line, I can picture the things I wrote about in such vivid detail.
‘Afterwards along more bumpy roads we played music. Driving full pelt across the Mongolian desert with the wind in my hair listening to the Foo Fighters – just perfect. I again wish I could adequately describe the experience. How unique it was and how happy it made me.’ Mongolia, August 2017.
A place to store the details
I wrote my blog posts about South East Asia a few years after I visited. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my journals.
I tend to stuff the pages with things I pick up along the way. Museum entry tickets, cards from hotels I stay in and restaurants I ate at for example. It’s a great way to keep track of where you visit. Even years after the event.
Often day trips involve a guide, who give you a great about of information about the place you are visiting. I vividly remember this to be true visiting Copan Ruinas in Honduras. Writing information down that evening, means I remember an awful lot more than if I waited a week to write a blog post. Particularly on a hectic trip, where you visit a lot of sites and destinations in a short space of time.
‘He told us the villagers fished, herring, mackerel and salmon in the summer and small fish in the winter. The men fished and their wives sold what they caught’ Ghana, January 2011.
It provides downtime
Often when travelling things get a little hectic moving from place to place. Being quite strict with myself by writing a travel journal every day gives me time to download and reflect on the day.
There is often a moment between the days activities and going out for dinner where I have a few moments to myself. Its so lovely to sit down and take the time to write down the details while they are still fresh. I find it provides more depth; writing each day while the memories are still fresh.
I find writing to be incredibly therapeutic and much more calming than I ever find typing on a laptop.
‘Now in my room again listening to a thunderstorm that makes yesterdays pale into comparison with the rain hammering on the roof’ Nicaragua, June 2016.
When there is no technology
This was particularly true for me in Mongolia. Having no signal or wifi for two weeks meant there was no way I could record anything digitally. We even lacked the power to charge anything in quite a few locations. Writing it down meant I had a copy of my memories then and there.
It was also true when in Africa, there was more connectivity but it was patchy at best! Not relying on technology to record my memories means I don’t miss any important moments.
‘First spotting a young gorilla in the trees, then a mum and a baby and a couple more. The silverback was in the tree. Utterly unbelievable. I can’t believe I was that close to them, and in their natural habitat.’ Uganda, April 2018.
The best souvenir
I am not one for buying lots of souvenirs when I travel. If I do it tends to be something practical I can use, rather than sentimental, despite being an incredibly sentimental person. But writing a travel journal provides me with the richest, most treasured of souvenirs to refer back to when I get home. Detailed and vivid access to the best memories of my life.
These journals are now some of the most precious possessions I own. I like to think years and years down the line, any children or grandchildren I have will sit down and read about my adventures. Understand a bit more about me and what travelling meant to me.
‘It was laid out on the floor on mats and you sat crossed legged. Had fried noodles with pork, rice, chicken and ginger and morning glory and pork and it was delicious. So nice to eat local Cambodian food and in such a lovely setting’ Cambodia, February 2014.
Do you write a travel journey when you go away? Would you start?
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