Laura Zito tells us why she thinks you should keep a travel journal and shares some great tips to make sure you come back and read it in years to come.
I’m a massive fan of keeping a day-by-day diary to recall those long-forgotten holiday memories years down the line. Photos are excellent, but they’re just a snapshot of one moment. Do you remember how you got to that beach? Who you asked to hold the camera? That hilarious conversation the elderly couple on the table next to you was having? Probably not. A diary gives you an added dimension to your travels and can be a wonderful keepsake in the years to come. So here are ten tips for writing a travel journal that you should stick to.
Buy a book you’ll actually want to write in. A scrappy reporter’s notepad may have cost 50p, but writing and recording your travels in it won’t be fun. Choose a spiral bound book, or splash out on a journal with pockets to keep business cards and other little keepsakes in. Make sure you can fit it in a bag.
Write for your audience. If your audience is you and you alone, then you can afford to go wild with your deepest thoughts. Be brutally honest about how you feel, even if you’re with friends. If you’re planning on rereading about the trip with others, use this golden rule: if you hesitate for a moment to write about it, don’t write about it.
Write conversations. If you overhear something funny, or have a tipsy conversation with friends, include the dialogue. You’re turning the diary into a living, breathing book and adding an extra dimension to the standard, ‘Today we went to the beach’ narrative.
Join forces. If you’re happy with friends reading your journal, ask them to write, draw or sketch on a few pages. We all see things differently and they might notice something you’d miss out. Make sure you get them to name and date it and don’t forget to include the location.
Doodle. Sitting in a really lovely bar? Draw your drink. Had a lovely meal? Sketch your plate. Go wild, even if you aren’t an artist. Sometimes these scribbles say more than a photo ever will. I drew a henna tattoo I had done on a random page. Looking back two years later I realised I’d totally forgotten about it and could remember the night instantly.
Keepsakes. If you can, bring a little tube of glue to stick in train tickets, bus passes, theatre tickets, or even napkins from your favourite restaurants. Use the adjacent page to describe the experience.
Heighten your senses. It’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing. But every now and then, take a second to register the sights, smells and sounds around you, and note them down. Write about how you feel. Are you gloriously happy? Why? Are you homesick? Why?
Floor plans. If you’re staying in a hotel, bungalow or dorm, instead of taking photos of each room, sketch the layout. This will help you recall memories and what weird local goodies were in the mini bar. It adds an element of depth to your book too.
Become a foodie. When my friends found a dish in Thailand they loved, they asked the chef, who could speak no English, to write it in Thai. This was then translated by a friendly local. The original recipe has been kept as a memento of the experience (waving a piece of paper and pointing wildly at the food) and the recipe was written out to follow at home.
Keep it short. If you force yourself to religiously list everything you did, you’ll soon get bored of writing. So write short, Tweet-like snippets to save the memory, and then elaborate later. If you don’t get the chance to expand on the thought, it doesn’t matter.
Laura’s a creative copywriter and journalist living just outside London, although she’s very often found daydreaming about her travels in South East Asia. She’s also the editor of six out of ten, an online women’s lifestyle magazine, and can be found tweeting at @sixoutoftenmag.