Travel Journaling

Vacation is time set aside, in a socially accepted manner, solely for our enjoyment of life however we decide. So makes sense that we’d want to savor it, enjoy it, re-live it and keep it fresh in our memories for as long as possible. And there are many techniques to choose from.

For centuries journals or diaries were very common – in fact much of history is discovered in these as well as letters written and sent from travelers of many kinds- dignitaries, soldiers, missionaries, clergy, settlers & explorers – both nomads & rooted individuals of “all walks”.  Prior to 1913, the invention of the 35 mm camera, & 1925, first mass-produced by the Leitz company in Germany, these journals rarely ever contained photographs.  Which brings us to two other forms of vacation capture: Sketching & Photography.  Photography of course encompassing still-frame & video

My family travelled a lot  when I was a kid and we owned many different cameras over the years.  I suppose I come from a family of people who, like me didn’t like to write. I say this because our main, dare-say only, capturing-technique was photography.  Unfortunately all those lovely pictures, with so much time, money and energy spent in creating them, would end up in photo albums in a dusty box if they were lucky & many of them instead in shoeboxes in that same corner. These memories were only ever revisited when someone stumbled upon them while looking for decorations for one or another holiday or when they were moved to a new corner of a different house.  My father recognized this lapse during his last year with us and in an effort to reclaim these moments, & perhaps to extend the memory of himself beyond is impending death as well, he took up an effort to create “collages”.  Essentially we went through boxes upon boxes of photos from various times, condensed them onto poster boards that were encased in plastic and hung along the hallways.  Producing them was enjoyable enough but they quickly fell apart and repairing them became less and less feasible as time went on shortly there after – I’m not even sure where they are anymore or what happened to them in the end.

Isn’t it interesting though?  Travel & school are like markers on our mental time-keeper.  Every day in clinic, I listen patiently as people rack their memories for years or dates saying: “Oh it was right after we went to Hawaii that time…” or “the year we went to Disney with —, he was in kindergarten then so…”

Since the internet has become central to life as we know it now Blogging is the new version of the Journal.  It combines text, video, photos and sketches too if you scan them in.  I wonder how Blogging will impact history and whether posts & blogs will preserve people’s memories compared photo albums and journals of the past.

In ‘This Time for Africa‘, I told you about my impending trip to Africa and some about the significance of this trip for me.  So naturally I’d like to capture this experience as best I can. However, these previous posts have also cited that I ‘hate’ writing. Despite this aversion, I’ve tried journaling many times before and while believing that writing it down is important enough that I can always be seen in my daily life with a pocket-notebook jotting down medical pearls, lists, etc (a task or skill that I would recommend to EVERY medical student and most people in general), I have never been successful beyond that.

So my motivation to create this blog and my journal was kick-started by:

  • requirements for these electives,
  • self-actualization (being honest with myself of strengths and short-comings) of my tendency to fail in the maintenance of regular journal
  • As a solution to general lack of easy & regular communication with my family & friends (both in country and abroad).

While a journal allows for documentation*, expression & reflection, a blog also allows me to share my experiences, thoughts and photographs with you and potentially my future self.  The fact that I need to continue my blog/journal for course-work presents me with a unique opportunity of enforcement, and hopefully when the month-long endeavor is finished I will have developed a new and beneficial habit of journaling.

*“Remember,” every clinical professor says, “documentation is everything in modern medicine. If you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it!”

Aware of the fate of previous journaling efforts before this one, I did a little research, some soul-searching/prioritizing & in the end some shopping.

The most helpful article I read about travel journaling was “How to Write a Travel Journal That’s Worth Reading” by Amand Kendle.  The annotated/improved cliff-notes version looks something like this:

  • Use an Attractive Book (aesthetically pleasing, practical and useful)
  • Alternating Pen Colors per day, entry or major thought process
  • Write the important/’weighted’ stuff – not everything 
  • Format:  Put Facts in Bullets  &  Head pages/entries with day, date, location.
  • Paste stuff in (tickets, photos, etc)   –  To Do: Carry scissors & glue-stick
  • Doodle!
  • Index your book.   First number all of your pages.  Then create an index on last several pages per destination, event, person, etc.

With this research, previous travel experience and my own priorities and goals in mind,  this is what I did for my travel journal.

1.  Established a gestalt of what I need and wanted in and from my travel journal.

2.  Glanced through shops to find a book that met my needs.  For this particular journal I wanted a book whose appearance seemed congruent with the trip itself – in other words I wanted a book that aesthetically looked like “an Africa book”.

I chose a red leather-like bound journal with ~80 pgs from Staples.  I chose it because it’s sturdy, small enough to easily carry around, ribbon marker & particularly the red one because I knew that the Masai incorporate a lot of red into their clothing, art, etc.

3. I numbered every page in the corner.

Since I plan on carrying it with me:

4. Wrote many of the details on my “Critical Travel page” over the inside of the front and back cover.

  • Personal & important names, addresses & emails.
  • emergency contacts in the US.
  • Embassy & emergency contacts in the countries I plan to travel through.

5. Wrote in the broad strokes/critical dates of my itinerary esp transportation information & confirmation codes.

6. Packed List (by bag if applicable).

  • able to track what I brought with me & annotate the usefulness of these items for repeat/similar trips
  • improves efficiency and reduces frustration in the inevitable scramble for supply assembly once in country.
  • finding items after arrival is easier – especially if you’re travelling via back-pack &/or loading duffel.  (This is more a problem for items you might normally carry in your daypack that you have to check & especially if you’re going through customs with medical equipment/supplies or on a medical mission – a whole other topic for another post.)

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About Femme Sans Frontières

I'm an MD with many passions: medicine, travel, family, action & good fun.

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