Just before I embarked on a school trip to Rome 7 years ago, my mum gifted me a very thin, pocket-sized floral notebook, for the purpose of writing down my different experiences. At first, I found this odd, as this was not my first time abroad without my parents, and I didn’t really understand the point of it. As with most of my writing endeavours, it was left abandoned. After all, pizza was higher up on my list of priorities.
But a few months after my return, I attempted to keep a travel journal – inspired this time by a travel-themed Paperchase notebook. As is with all Paperchase notebooks, just begging to be scribbled in, this time I thought a pretty purchase would overcome my writer’s block and force me to write up a detailed account of my holidays.
However, this was not to last. My next adventure abroad was the annual summer holiday visiting my Hungarian family. I wrote dutifully for three days, and then became bored with the idea – most of my holidays to Hungary have always been filled with the same people, places and occasions, that I found it tedious to detail my so-called, monotonous ‘adventures’ in Budapest. I soon forgot about my travel journal, and it still lies in abandonment on my desk.
I would spend an hour trying to remember everything we’d done and then another hour writing it all up
But as of July 2018, I am a changed woman. For this was the summer where I would embark on two unique escapades – interrailing with one of my oldest and dearest friends and going on a cruise with my parents. These voyages had to be documented. I picked up my trusty and pretty notebook (travel-themed, as I bought it during a Klimt exhibition in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna two years before) and set out to write down every single detail of my expeditions. Before I started, I made it clear to myself that I would only write about the positives – it’s impossible to avoid frustration when things don’t go according to plan, but disagreements are short-lived, whereas memories aren’t, and you’ll end up laughing about it along the way.
A travel journal is meant to serve as a memento, but there can be a couple of significant drawbacks of keeping one. Depending on how accurate your account is, it can be very time-consuming, and you might find it impossible to remember everything you’ve seen or done. My mum has a very easy, efficient way of noting down all her shenanigans – she quickly jots down bullet points of what she’s done at the end of the day. I would spend an hour trying to remember everything we’d done and then another hour writing it all up. The trouble with travel is that it is so jam-packed with activities that you don’t have the energy to complete the former task, let alone the latter.
In this ever-growing digital age, I think it’s rather refreshing to keep a physical account of your journeys
This summer, I also rediscovered the travel journal my mum kept when she participated in a Russian language course in St Petersburg in the ‘70s. Her burgundy, leather-bound notebook, bursting with yellow pages, faded photographs, and paragraphs of fluent Russian, is gorgeous and really reflects how much she still cherishes the experience to this day. Mind you, the effort was needed, because there was a prize at stake, but it’s something she is incredibly proud of creating, and glad that she made note of her recollections, instead of committing them to memory. Her travel journal looks like something that will belong in a museum in 50 years’ time. I’m not saying it’s my life ambition to become so famous that I would like to be mentioned in an exhibition, but if someone thinks my illegible handwriting describing the ABBA Museum in Stockholm is worthy to be displayed in a glass box, I won’t be complaining.
In this ever-growing digital age, I think it’s rather refreshing to keep a physical account of your journeys. They might be lacking in filtered photos, witty captions and public validation, but the beauty of keeping a hard-copy account of your adventures is that it’s just for you and those you choose to share it with. You end up creating a much more detailed, personal memoir for you and those you love. And best of all, it will give you a reason to travel again.