Journals Recreate the Memories

vivoligelatoIt’s been 12 years, but I can tell you the name of the gelatteria in Florence where we had the best gelato (it was Vivoli). How about the little restaurant in Marigot, St. Martin where we watched the sun set (La Vie en Rose)?  With a collection of journals for every one of our trips, I can recall the entire itinerary.

My favorite journal books are 3 x 5 or smaller with lined pages. They are easy to keep in my back pocket and when time permits (e.g. on the beach, in the train, on the plane, in the restaurant), I make cryptic entries about where we have been, how we got there, the restaurants and museums we visited, the challenges of speaking the language of the locals, and the characters we meet along the way. Some people are devoted to Moleskine journals, but I’m not that fussy. As long as it’s saddlestitched and not wirebound (hurts when you sit on them), I don’t care. In fact, having different types of journal books for different trips makes it easier when I go back totulum look up some particulars.

With the advent of blogging and sites like myspace, many people are coming back from their trips with their journals and converting them into web diaries, complete with pictures. The website Travellers Point gives even non-techy types the ability to create an online travel diary, as does another site, Off Exploring. Reading other peoples’ posted journals is not without its perils, since you have absolutely no idea whether they were sane or not when they visited the journal subject. With so many journal sites available to you, it’s easy to consult 10 diaries on the ins and outs of visiting Tulum, Mexico. Of course there is also the theory that if you ask 10 people you’ll get 10 opinions, but the vicarious meanderings of travel writer wannabes can be very entertaining.

altoidsReading over journals from trips past is a bittersweet pleasure. I love remembering the little vignettes (giving a fellow passenger on an Italian train an Altoid mint and then trying to discuss in Italian and English how curiously strong they are) but also have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot travel the same way anymore. No more 70 pound backpacks or 6 countries in 10 days for me. But that’s okay, because now I want to see the world differently – as in slower. I want to take the time to sit in a café and watch the other tourists rushing by, and coincidentally, that gives me even more time to write in my journal.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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