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.


Jason said...

Hey Beth! Saw your comment on my blog and thought I'd pop in to say hi!

I've never kept a travel journal, but that's partly because I've only been on a few trips. When I was little we went to Iowa every year to see my dad's family, but as for vacations, the only one I've really had was when we went to Branson, Missouri. Someday, though I hope to go to England and see the sights. The place seems awesome. And when I do, I'll make sure to pay attention to the sights, and not the notes. :D

PJ Hoover said...

I haven't kept travel journals either, but next vacation we take, I plan to do a blog entry a day (for the family on a different blog) kind of thing.

Tabitha said...

I used to keep a travel journal. I used to keep journals on lot of things, actually...but now, I only keep an journal for story ideas.

Before we had kids, my husband and I decided to travel the world. I kept a journal to record what we did each day, plus my reactions to what we saw. I'm so glad I did, because now it's much, much harder to travel. We still do, but with two boys aged 3 and 5, it's like a 3-ring circus. And by the time I've settled them down and have a few minutes to myself, I'm too tired to write anything down. :) I expect it'll get easier when they're older. But, until then, I'll have to rely on pictures.

Unknown said...

Jason-- Thanks! Hi! :) You should absolutely go to England. I've been three times now (once for a study abroad thing), and I adore the entire country. Scotland's my fav, actually, but London is by far the best city in the world (Oh dear, I shouldn't say that right after the fourth, ne?)

PJ--Blog entries sound fun!

Tabitha--I've actually found my pictures to be much more helpful than my notes. When I decided to include Malta in my WIP, I looked back at my photo album, not my journal. Looking at the pictures reminded me more of the details I needed. For the facts, I honestly just used Google and Wiki--I figured that my notes might not be as reliable as these sources (with cross references, of course) and it was just so much easier. When I look back at my journals, I reminisce and spend the whole day reading was easier to glance at pictures and go back to my story.

TerriRainer said...

LOVE Scotland, that's my dream trip!

:) Terri