Keeping Travel Memories Fresh

Travel, especially foreign travel, is a great way to broaden your horizons and enrich your life. I’ve been especially fortunate to have the opportunity over the last twenty years to visit every continent except Australia, and have all sorts of great stories to tell of my experiences.

One of the best way’s I’ve found to keep these memories from fading is to write about them, but when I am constantly barraged by one spectacular sight after another, ongoing connections with fascinating people, and an endless stream of unfamiliar surroundings, it all blurs together, even before I get home.

I’ve often begun a trip with a fresh notebook in hand, intending to journal events on a daily basis. Once I managed to do this for five whole days. I can use precious time to immerse myself in the adventure, sleep, or journal. The bottom priority never gets done!

Our recent trip to China went much better in this respect, because I used multiple streams of input to record experiences rather than relying on a single mode:

Daily event sheets — Unlike previous trips which we’ve mostly done on our own, we made arrangements to go to China with Vantage Tours, and happily give them five stars for performance. One of the many reasons for this rating was the daily event sheets our guide provided. Each one detailed times and destinations, with brief notes about what we’d be seeing and doing. What a valuable memory jogger!

Mini-notebook — As an after-thought, I stuck a tiny spiral-bound notebook in my bag. It fit in my small hip pouch. Our guides often used bus time en route to daily destinations for short lectures on local customs, history, and such things. It was so easy to whip out my little notebook and capture the content.

Voice recorder — I stripped most of the music content and took along a Zen Plus V mp3 player for making quick voice notes about amazing things I saw, impressions, smells, sounds, and other things that wouldn’t come through in a photo. The Zen conveniently hangs around my neck, so it was easy to keep track of. It’s not a good choice for audio you want to share, and it’s not as easy to use as a dedicated recorder, but it’s better than nothing. Many cell phones, cameras, and other mp3 players also include this function.

Photos — Between the two of us, we have nearly 10,000 photos. Many of mine were quick shots made for memory joggers, not sharing. It’s easy to get carried away with digital, especially if you carry along a laptop! We made lots of separate folders for downloads, to keep track of the location for each batch, and I synchronized the clocks on our cameras so we can pool resources and sort by time. A few of these photos will find their way onto a website and into a slideshow for sharing at libraries and similar locations.

E-mail — I don’t recommend spending lots of vacation time writing e-mail, but I kept a document for recording thoughts that I could quickly paste into e-mails later, and added to it while photos downloaded.

Standard journal — I even wrote a few pages in the larger spiral I took as an official trip journal.

What will I do with this wealth of information? I may take time to compile a complete document with the story of our trip, or I may not get around to it. That doesn’t matter. Recording the details helps cement trip memories in my mind, and will serve as reference material if questions come up later. I took the notes primarily for myself, and if others benefit, so much the better.

Write now: about a fantastic vacation you took. It may be recent or far in the past. It may involve overseas travel, or a trip to the park across town. Include descriptions of the scenery, impressions of the people you saw, the place you stayed, any smells you remember (food, flower fragrances, etc.), weather, comforts, discomforts, memorable events, travel challenges, and anything else you remember. Include photos if you have them.


Janet Grace Riehl said...

Sharon, what a great list of organizational tools...not just for travel, but for writing around your home neighborhood as well in daily life. China! Wow!

Janet Riehl

Pat's Place said...

Thanks for the tips on keeping notes on your travels. We did a tour of Spain and Portugal and it was such a whirlwind that I got lots of pictures which, after about a month, were mostly unidentifiable. I will be more organized on future tours we might take.

Ritergal said...

Janet, these tools will indeed work in any situation. The challenge is finding the time later to pull it all together, but just like writing rough draft stories that are never finished, having scraps of info is better than nothing!

Ritergal said...


There are so many ways to get more information about digital photos, and ways of putting even more there -- I may have to to another post about that.

Leah said...

Thanks for the great tips! We are going to the beach in two weeks so these will really come in handy.

Ritergal said...


Have a great time. I know you'll get great photos! You probably also have a voice recording function on your camera for a few quick words about scene or camera settings. I didn't think I had that, and found it on the way home! Next trip...

たけ said...

Look when it is good, and when it is possible to link, I hope travel happy.(

Ritergal said...

If anyone wants to look at the memoriestravel blog, there's a Google Translate widget that renders the Japanese text into English. Wonders never cease, and the wonder of having Japanese viewers fascinates me and fills me with gratitude!