When keeping a travel journal becomes a task not worth completing…
Last fall I spent about three months in parts of Europe. Most of my first month was spent in Italy, and this is very evident in my journal as my first 20 days were covered to the very detail. Every meal, walk, activity, hostel or airbnb was covered to the point. I even included the bloody costs of the day. And while I now have a detailed view of what I did this journal looks a lot like the journals we were forced to keep in our boring classes growing up. It’s so specific it irks me.
So what changed?
Even though it was my idea to get as detailed as I wanted it started to feel like more of an assignment every night (especially by the time I started staying in more hostels). I sort of resented the idea of writing in it for a while, so much that the entries go from a few pages to half a page. I was already updating the blog almost every night as I kept my family in the loop with where I was.
I felt removed from the trip. I was spending more time writing than a sane person should on the trip of their life (at that point). Starting in Venice I made a point of slowing down the entries I was doing, both online and off. In the month of November, I spent the least amount of time writing. And you know what? It’s the part of the trip I remember most vividly.
It’s kind of the same scenario as taking too many pictures while you are away- at some point I realized I was spending too much time behind the lens and not truly appreciating where I was.
I did learn something important. The less you focus on getting every little detail onto the paper the more you will remember. I can close my eyes right now and remember some of my favourite walks in Porto, and I didn’t write in the journal during my time there.
But it isn’t all bad- I was just flipping through and came across a random page with a sticky note on it with some Italian scribbled on it. In Bologna, while eating at a local restaurant the owner noticed me referencing some notes I had written down (I was trying to converse and at the very least order food in Italian). He ended up adding to my notes and practicing a few different scenarios with me. It was awesome. And it was something I had forgotten until I came across his sticky which he assuringly pressed over top of my notes. He even made a joke about how I could pronounce things, hence the “vor-*eh*” written below.
It isn’t all bad. While a lot of it does look like I was doing an assignment there are several notes scribbled down that remind me of exactly what I was feeling at the time. Something I might not remember without. But how am I going to do things moving forward?
For one, I am buying a better (sexier?) looking journal. The next one I buy will be the journal I use until every last space is filled. But this isn’t going to be the same. The entries will be shorter and sweeter and they won’t feel forced. Just the smallest details that will help me remember entire days and journeys, rather than a homework assignment. That will be the journal I will be proud pick up every few weeks, looking back on some great memories.
I won’t throw this journal out. It will stay in Hanz (my backpack) as it has been until the next trip comes along. Afterwards, it will find its place in my room as a reminder of the kid that forgot his purpose- to enjoy the moment rather than pouring over every little detail.
Next time- My Favourite Walks: Porto