I have a great memory. I remember faces, places, images, buildings, maps… Anything visual is imprinted in my mind. I wouldn’t call it a photographic memory – that implies some sort of superhuman remembering capability that I’m fairly certain I do not possess. But visually, my memory is 97% spot-on.
When it comes to anything aural, descriptive, numeric, or emotional… Well that’s a different story. I’ll remember a person’s face for years, but forget their name less than a minute after we’re introduced. I’ll remember a building’s location and façade, but have no idea of its name or function. I’ll remember how to navigate a maze of foreign streets to find my way back to my hotel, but I have no idea what the street next mine at home is called. In these respects, I have the memory of a goldfish.
This makes travelling both exciting and fairly natural for me, but it can also leave me feeling a little unfulfilled. Being a dominantly visual person, I always come home with thousands and thousands of photographs to sort through. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This is a lie. A picture can’t tell you specifics – the name, place, date, function and history of a place. A picture also can’t relay the emotions that being in that particular location made you feel. It can’t remind you of the kind African man you met on the train and of the extremely sad and deeply touching conversation you had about his life. It can’t remind you of the woman feeding the cats behind you and your lens, nor of the charismatic old Italian tour guide who serenaded you with broken English love songs. These are the experiences that become the highlights of my travels, and never would have been if I hadn’t written them down.
This is why I journal. It doesn’t have to be long and boring, just a few sentences about what happened that day, the people you met, and the conversations you had. Some days you’ll be able to write pages; others you’ll have merely a sentence or two. Length isn’t important. But you’ll thank yourself six months down the track when you’re reading through, nostalgic about the experiences you had.
Journaling takes discipline. I can’t tell you how many trips I have taken and only made it a couple days in before giving up on my journal. In fact, it’s something I’ve only mastered in the last few years. I’ll let you in on my secret: routine. It’s so important to develop a journaling routine, and to stick to it! For me, I set aside some time before bed – sometimes only five minutes, but I’ll take however long I need to adequately describe the day I’ve experienced. Sometimes I miss days – sometimes I’m just too tired, or I’m out, or I’ve had a little too much vino – but the important thing is to pick up the pen on the next day and continue where you left off. The hard work is worth it, I promise!
So write your travel memoir – you’ll thank yourself for it later.