Saturday, July 5, 2008

Travel Journals

When you travel, do you keep a travel journal? I used to. On my first international trip, to Malta, I had a little reporter's notebook and wrote down everything the tour guide said, everything printed on the little signs in front of paintings or artifacts, just everything. When I studied abroad, I did the same, writing pages and pages at the end of each day.

But I quit doing that.

It wasn't because I didn't like writing--I did. But I noticed that much of what I wrote was facts, not observations. I wrote down the little historical tidbits. I wrote down dates and locations. It was like I was taking notes in history class again--and while that has been useful (i.e. when I decided to include some details from my trip to Malta in my latest WIP), it also slowed me down. Many times, I was so busy trying to write down the facts, that I forgot to take a closer look at what I was writing about. I copied down the information sign, but didn't use my senses to make a judgment on the object itself. What good is knowing who the king of the castle was in 1267 if you don't pay attention to what the castle looks like, smells like, feels like (I've yet to ever need to know what a castle tastes like, so I draw the limit there.)?

On my recent trip, a friend wrote pages of notes on everything. There was a lot of bus riding on this trip--we basically made a loop around Southern England, and let me tell you, there's not that much going on between Stonehenge and Warwick Castle. However, while my friend was copying down notes--facts--she missed the huge, majestic ruddy-brown deer that lay on a hilltop, surveying the world as if it were his; she didn't notice the placid way the tractors cut the wheat; she ignored the countless villages we drove through, each with its own personality.
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