Through time famous writers kept journals or diaries. They have been the source for novels, travel literature and autobiographies. There is “The Diary of Virginia Wolf.” Anne Frank. Sylvia Plath. And contrary to my husband’s belief that men do not keep diaries, there is D.H Lawrence. Henry James. Gustave Flaubert. John Steinbeck. I read that at the time of Franz Kafka’s death, he ordered his diaries burned unread (smart man). I imagine Peter Mayle keeps journals in Provence.
Since I can remember, I never left for a trip without packing my journal.
There’s the one that is worn &brown leather, the other exotic & colorful, the flowered diary with the key, and some small plain notebooks and even napkins that filled in when I just couldn’t wait to jot something down. My journal was my companion, whether I was traveling in company or solo. The little book captured my memories of places and people and was filled with observations, ideas, questions and experiences. And maybe a few secrets.
I included amateur sketches of views I wanted to preserve forever. I stuffed in saved museum tickets. Meal receipts from a notable meal. A wine label. Plane ticket stubs. An old map with a circle around a town I just had to get back to someday. A running log of my favorite food in a particular country. Phone numbers. Postcards.
So when I had a reason or two to revisit some of my journals the other day, and I opened a big red box that houses them all – I glanced (amused) over the pages and followed my scribbles (while shouting warnings to the former me – who could have no idea what the future pages would bring – that so-and-so was going to dump me on page 34 while the nice one I let get away on page 31. Or that on page 11 I decided to board a train to a new destination, and on 14 I realized I should have stayed put).
Of course, most of my journals were filled long before blogging. On trips, I traveled with journal and pen tucked into my bag so I could easily pull it out to record my thoughts on all that was unveiling itself to me – whether sitting in a cafe or train, or sunbathing on a rock (can you do that when you are blogging?). The result is more than a dozen journals under my bed with hundreds of pages of words, descriptions, historical facts and figures, and favorite places – neatly condensed and snugly tucked into a single red box. It doesn’t seem to adequately represent the experiences. And the dilemma presents itself. What to do with them now? Do I want my kids to read my journals some day? (Um. No.) Do I toss them in the garbage? (Not yet, but my completely illegible handwriting is a comfort to me.) Kafka might have been on to something.
Do you record your travel memories by keeping a journal? Or do you blog instead? How do you preserve your travel experiences?