Preserving Travel Memories
Writing about travel adventures and memories doesn’t have to take place during travel. Although having a journal or extensive travel notes is an advantage in sparking recall, it can be fun to reminisce about your trips years—even decades—later.
With or without meticulous travel notes, the following tips will prompt your recall and help you put your memories in writing.
Describe the setting:
When you’re writing about travel, be sure to include the basics facts of the trip—your destination, your route, and your reason for traveling. Remember, the Internet is your friend. A quick map search will often refresh your memory.
Describe your fellow travelers, so your readers can visualize them. (Include pictures if you can.) When I let my family members read my Africa travel journal, it annoyed them that I only referred to our Tanzanian guide as “David.” They wanted to know his age, his race, and if he spoke with an accent.
Remind readers of any historical or political significance of your trip’s timing. For instance, travel to Berlin in the early 80’s was quite different from travel in 1989 or 1990, and definitely different from today. Particularly if you saw history unfold, write about it.
You don’t want to leave a calorie journal and list everything and every time you ate, but food is often an integral part of our travel experiences, and definitely worth a mention when you’re writing about travel. Include pictures—if you don’t have your own, you can find stock photos at stock.xhng or rgbstock. An additional benefit: thinking back on the food you ate, smelled, or gagged at the thought of eating will also help stimulate other memories.
When writing about travel memories, keep in mind you don’t have to detail an entire trip, at least not at one time. Telling anecdotes is a great way to “show—don’t tell” the vibes of your travel destination. Was there a small episode that epitomizes the tone of the trip? The feel of the city? What adventures did you have? What surprised you?
Include quotes from fellow travelers or local people in your anecdotes. Not only do quotes often provide great punch-lines, they convey the personalities involved.
How did your trip affect you personally? Was constant diarrhea, aching feet, or sunburn a subtext? Sometimes these mishaps lead to great anecdotes. One especially fond memory I have is of my dad and I using our Strasbourg, Germany hotel’s bidets to soak our aching feet.
I may have mentioned this before: Use them! (Related posts: Captioning the past: How to Use Captions to Tell Stories and, if you’re writing about travel memories that took place quite a few years ago, Where to find historical images to illustrate your stories.)
If you haven’t yet taken the trip:
- Before you go, pick up a notebook to use to record your notes and memories. It should be small enough to keep in your pack or bag, so you can pull it out and write during flights, bus-rides, and down times.
- Don’t wait until bedtime to write. Make notes in your journal during the day or those down times mentioned above.
- Save maps and mementos.
- If you have any artistic ability, draw illustrations. It’s fun (I hear, I’m limited to stick figures) and is truly a treasure to share later.
- Read and heed Amanda Kendle’s advice in “How to Write a Travel Journal That’s Worth Reading” about weighing your words.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013