“What have you been up to lately?”
“Er, nothing much.”
Then I remembered that, in the last few weeks, I had joined an adventure group called Spice UK, which encourages you to ‘Live Your Dream’. “Nothing much” had included playing polo on a horse, flying with the British Aerobatic Champion and learning how to fire-eat.
There was a small advert in the Spice magazine for a log book in which I could record my experiences. I bought one immediately. That was in 1994.
25-years on, following a brutal downsize to caravan nomad, my two Spice log books are my most treasured possessions.
“What did you do on holiday?”
If, like me, you reply “Nothing much”, perhaps you too need a journal. If you haven’t thought about it before, here are five very good reasons to keep a travel journal;1
1. You Lose the Fine Detail
I bought my log book to help my shocking memory – something to remind me of where I had been, with whom and what I did, but it became something much more. There was room for me to stick photos in, which recorded all of that, but a picture isn’t always worth 1000 words.
The photo above can’t tell you why locals call Victoria Falls ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders’, but I can describe the deafening roar of 550 million litres of water dropping 300 feet each minute, the spray misting my skin and how, if you visit at full moon, you will see a lunar rainbow formed in the falls’ fine mist.
The real joy of my log book is that it has kept a record of something much more profound than a pretty view, or a group partying in a foreign bar, drinking brightly-coloured cocktails filled with umbrellas and foliage.
My journal tells me what I was feeling; the raw fear of being held underwater by one of the largest rapids on the Zambezi River, with the guide’s words “You DO NOT want to fall in here…” ringing in my head; The taste and smell of a cloud that I parachuted through; The unbridled joy of swimming daily with playful sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. The desolation of being dragged away from these wonderful adventures to go back to the daily grind of earning a living…
My travel diaries also help me to remember conversations, such as the one that I had with a refugee from life, who I met near her home in paradise, deep in the Costa Rican jungle; “The crocs ate my ducks and a boa constrictor ate my cat. One night, I found a Fer de Lance pit viper in my bed!” Paradise indeed.
My journals take me back to the musical soundtrack of the time, a quote that struck a chord or recommendations from fellow travellers for a whole new adventure. (See Rocky Mountain High – Colorado Capers and Honeymoon II – The Sequel for two fine trips planned around such recommendations.)
2. Your Memory is Fallible
“That was AWESOME! I’ll never forget it”
I hear you. I said the same about my trip-of-a-lifetime around the Galapagos Islands. I moved house shortly after and never did get around to putting the photographs in an album. I wasn’t worried. Those memories were so vivid that they were branded into my brain. I knew exactly which island had the unique, multi-coloured marine iguanas or where I saw the vermillion fly-catcher.
Five years later, my memory had deserted me. Without my travel journal, I would never have been able to piece together where I had my photo taken in a lava tube or saw a host of cackling albatross race over to comfort their fellow, after he had crash landed.
And I would have been unable to put my friend Tim in touch with the travel agent that I had used in Quito. As it had for me, booking direct with Ecuador saved him thousands of pounds on the cost of his particular trip-of-a-lifetime to the Galapagos.
3. It Makes You Observe More Closely
People talk about a ‘photographer’s eye’ – a great photographer will see things that you don’t. Observation is the key. You will take better photographs if you study your subject closely and really see what is staring you in the face. This scrutiny also allows you to compose, to be selective and make the most of the elements that are out there in front of you.
Your journal will cause you to do exactly the same. At first, you may record the mundane details; “I got up. I ate this. I went here.” But eventually, you will start to observe and compose; seeking out interesting facts or interactions to add to your journal and I promise you, doing this will change your experience of travel!
4. It Records Your Inner Journey
My 1994 log book is a time machine, which takes me straight back into the life of a 30-year old me as I embarked on a great journey. Corny but true, the journey was not just a world trip, but one of self-discovery. I came back from my travels and experiences with altered perceptions and very different aspirations.
In 1994, I was newly-divorced and single. I needed to rebuild my life. I joined Spice to give me something that I could do alone at weekends. I could join in activities with a ready-made ‘gang’ of Spice participants. Many of the Spice ‘gang’ are now lifelong friends – and one is my husband.
I did a stand-up comedy course, SCUBA dived and drove a rally car. I travelled to six of the seven continents. I chronicled each experience and along the way, learned a great deal about myself; things that are not always obvious, such as what was actually important to me. And have a guess; it wasn’t work!
5. Keep a Diary and One Day It Will Keep You
Making a living from writing is difficult, but not impossible.
I write because I am compelled to – and I love it. Money-making has never been uppermost in my mind and that is a good job. My blog costs me money for hosting and my affiliate links (click-throughs to Amazon) have yet to achieve an amount sufficient to warrant payment.
My books are available worldwide on Amazon and in the UK through Waterstones. Seven months after publication, I have almost broken even on the investment I made in the first two, although I doubt that I will ever get close to being compensated for the thousands of hours of work spent researching, writing, editing, marketing and learning all the new skills that I needed to set up a blog and publish a book.
However, without a travel journal, which I thoroughly enjoy creating for its own sake, I would never have started my blog or written the books. That means I would not have learned new skills, met many wonderful people in the blogosphere nor gained the tremendous sense of achievement that comes from getting into print or seeing readers around the world enjoy my scribblings.
Also, without my journals, if someone asked “What have you been doing since 1994?” I would still have to reply “Nothing much.”
I can’t promise that one day, your diary will keep you, although I can GUARANTEE this;
Keep a diary and one day it will keep you entertained.
Besides my Spice Log Books, I have used proper travel journals, hotel stationery, paper bags (yes, really!) and cheap, spiral–bound notebooks to record my adventures. From experience, I can tell you that a proper journal makes recording your travels much more pleasurable (and durable!) I am in the process of transcribing the motley selection shown below;
For caravanning, motorhoming or camping, I recommend Leisure Logs Journals, which are colourful, fun and a great place to start your journalling career. They also make wonderful gifts to budding journalists, even very young ones. My first attempt was at 14; Travel Writer Dave Fox of Globe Jotting started at 7. It is never too early to start!
Leisure Logs Journals are lovingly produced by Carol, a wonderful lady whom I met through blogging and publishing – yet another unexpected positive from writing about my travels!
Click on this link; Adventure Caravanning with Dogs to go to my travel books on Amazon.
Next time, I shall give you 10 Tips to Titivate your Travel Journal to make it a riveting read.