Thursday, July 14, 2011

Travel Journals

Earlier this year I went to a wonderful exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. The exhibition featured different types of diaries throughout history including personal or spiritual journeys, mental journeys: mathematics and science, intellectual journeys: writing books and poetry, artistic journeys: sketchbooks, and physical journeys: travel journals.

It was lovely and voyeuristic to see people’s lives so intimately written out in front of me, especially the travel journals. People at least as far back as the 18th century, would bring journals on their trips and write about their experiences. Sometimes they would sketch the places they saw as well. Then when they returned, they would use the journal as a way to share their experience with their friends and families. They would physically show them the pages and tell the stories of their adventures.

Sharing experiences is so uplifting to our spirits. It stimulates our minds, gets us excited to go see what someone else witnessed, and encourages to share our own stories with them. Sharing stories is part of the human condition and it’s what binds us. This is especially the case when we travel. We meet new people and try to relate to their way of life. Then we bring back our bazaar stories to share with our neighbors.

Over the years I've found that I am a live-in-the-moment type of person and my memory is not the greatest. Perhaps that is why I depend on the moment so much. Paying close attention to the details all the while  knowing they are fleeting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a dreamer too. I think about the future (especially when planning my next adventure!) and I like to reminisce about the past with good friends over a bottle of wine. My problem is that after a long trip of exciting new experiences, I don't often remember the details. I sometimes mix up people, places, and times. I'll remember that we went to a fantastic restaurant but I won't remember what I ate or the name of the restaurant. I'll only remember my impression of the experience.

This is where my trusty journals come in. When I'm traveling I always bring a journal and pen (sometimes charcoal too if I can squeeze it in). I might bring a large notebook or a scrap of paper, anything to capture the passing moments. I don't distract myself writing but I try to write down my memories at the end of each day.

I usually take a business card from a store or restaurant I visit and stuff it into my journal. This way if I only have a few moments to jot down my impressions, the menu, or funny story then I'll be able to reference where it took place. And I can easily look it up later when a friend asks for a recommendation.

In keeping with the tradition this blog is my travel journal. I very much enjoy the old fashioned idea of recollecting my experiences and sharing them with you using this contemporary medium.

Do you have a favorite moment that you wish you remembered more in detail? Or do you find writing it down distorts your perspective of the past? Do you think it’s important to pass down memories to family and friends?

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