November 17, 2014

Taking Travelnotes

Do you make New Year resolutions? I know, I know, it’s not that time yet (just kidding, it’s never too early to set some goals), but I have a regular that I want to talk about: Writing a diary. Every year I have great intentions to document my life in a diary: I would buy a new black note book every December, being all excited for the New Year. Then I would start filling it in religiously for the first few days. I would write about everything. Eventually I would get exhausted from all this writing – and then I would stop. Only to renew my vows to the note taking when the summer holidays approach. Man, how I would love to keep a consistent travel diary. Yet I seem to fall under the same spell while abroad that I do at home. I write a few days then there is so much happening that I forget to and then I feel like I’ll never catch up and may just stop altogether.

This year however, after being away for five weeks exploring bits of Thailand and visiting Australia, things turned out a little different. Before I even started on my travel diary three things happened:
First, I researched how to take field notes. I had this idea about a travel diary being not only an account of my experience, but written notes about how a place feels, smells, looks. (I had just read Measuring The World and was inspired by Humboldt’s meticulous note keeping). Also I liked the look of the field note books.
Second, I ended up not buying aforementioned note books but cheaper once, which came in a pack of three. This way I had enough pages to fill if I needed to, but if I would end up not filling all of them (which was the case) I could still feel like I completed the diary.
Last, I came across this video by Elise Blaha Cripe and although I never intended to do a scrapbook, her advice not to worry to capture everything really spoke to me. Somehow someone else telling me that it is ok to not note down a minute-by-minute account made it actually ok.
I am pretty happy now with how my travel diary turned out and so I thought I would share it and my favourite record keeping techniques with you.

Write what you see, feel and smell
I did this mainly in the beginning when we visited Thailand. This beautiful South-East-Asian country was very new territory to me and since its culture is so far from what I have experienced before, I wanted to keep a good record of it. I kept the sentences short and the descriptions filled with adjectives.

Keep a count of your observations
One day in Koh Tao I simply spent half an hour counting the animals passing. It turned out as a lovely record of the islands animals, by no means complete and yet a full account of my experiences.

Make a chart
On our first day in Sydney, Australia our lovely friends who we stayed with introduced us to their favourite gelato place. We do love ice cream and the moment our lips touched our first scoop, we knew we would be back (probably the next day). There was really no better way to sum up our time in Sydney then with a good ol’gelato chart. Five stars for Banana Split and Steve Jobs (some gooey peanut/chocolate ice cream, not the inventor).

Ask a question
I ask questions all the time. Whenever I see or experience something that doesn’t make sense, I just put the question out there the moment they come into my head – usually with no one around to give me an answer. However, the Englishman encouraged me to write these questions down instead of just saying them out loud. It turns out that they are an excellent caption to what was going on that day. I simply added a few notes on where and why I asked the question and the answer (obviously).

Give it a number
Our last weekend in Sydney was probably the most exciting one of our whole holidays. My best friend got married and I got to be her maid of honour. Clearly there was not much time for keeping a travel diary, however I wanted to remember that day not just through photos and so I made and account of random things I remembered from the day. Literally with numbers.

Sum it up in three sentences (you can try one, but I am no good at that)
Some days we really didn’t do much or we did so much that I didn’t find much time to write. These days I simply captured with three sentences (or not at all).

Oh, just looking through the diary fills my mind with great moments from this summer. What about you? Do you keep a travel diary?

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