A full-blown travel journal isn’t for everyone, but virtually everyone who travels naturally seeks ways to record, memorialize, or mark certain experiences during travel.
Why you should create some kind of record of your travel:
I think all of us are aware of just how fleeting the experiences of travel can be. While walking through a market in Marrakesh or a windswept plain in Patagonia, we’re vibrantly alive to the sensory experience of the moment. When we go to sleep after a significant travel experience, we do so with of vibrant embodied memory of what it felt like to a traveler in that place and in the particular body we call home.
Inevitably, these travel memories fade, perhaps forgotten altogether until some breeze strikes our faces a particular way or a long-forgotten scent of a rare spice entices our nose.
Recording our travels, through whatever means we choose, can be a way to bookmark these travel memories. With a written, visual, or audio record of our travels, we have the power to remember and reengage these experiences any time we want. All we have to do is review the travel record we made.
For those of us who have children or someday planned to have children, a travel record can be a gift to future generations. Written or visual records of our travel experiences, which can be significant experiences that shape who we are, can help future generations understand who we are/were, the travel experiences formed us, and – by extension- how they came to be who they are.
Looking back on our own travel record a decade or two down the road may be helpful for us in understanding just how far we’ve come in our own journal and how travel helped encourage personal growth.
Beyond Travel Journals
Although I am an ardent advocate of maintaining a travel journal (look no farther than my ultimate guide to starting a travel journal for proof), not everyone processes or remembers information in the same way. Creating a good travel record is about understanding who you are and how you communicate and then using that information to inform a record-keeping choice that works for you.
A travel journal is the standard go-to for creating a travel record, but it might not be for you. Most travel journal letters write longhand about their trip and travel experiences, though there are many variations.
1. Making lists
If writing in a journal feels overwhelming, adopt a list-making approach. Instead of forcing full sentences and long-hand text, sit down at the end of each day (or before you head out in the morning and make a list). Your list could be anything. Here are a few examples of travel-list prompts that can be answered with brief words or phrases:
- “things I want to do in the city”
- “worst parts about staying in a hostel”
- “6 things I learned at yesterday’s museum visit”
- “things I liked most about this city”
- “feelings I’ve had while traveling solo this week”
Your lists can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like, for an easy template for creating the list-style travel journal layout below, download the template here.
2. Buy postcards and send them to yourself
When you arrive at a destination, buy a few postcards and stamps.
When you do something particularly memorable or fun, scrawl a short description on the back of a postcard and send it to your home address. When you get home, you’ll have a pile of travel memories with foreign postmarks to serve as a record of your travel.
(Personally, I have a bad habit of forgetting to mail my postcards! For me, it helps to purchase stamps and postcards as soon as I arrive in a country, so when I spot a public mailbox I’m ready to drop a postcard then and there)
3. Use social media to make a mindful record
Many of us use social media motivated by entertainment or simply “likes”. Consider revamping your use of social media during travel by turning your social media accounts into a digital record of your travels.
Posting travel photos with a short description of your experience (especially on the day the photograph was taken) can be a quick way to create a travel record on the go. And you never know, with a bit of luck and good travel selfie skills, you might just find yourself a travel influencer.
4. Make a travel blog
Most popular travel blogs started out as someone’s attempt to record their travel for their own memory. Even WanderBig (although I can’t begin to claim that it is a popular travel blog by any standard!), began as an effort to simply create a record of where I’d traveled and the experiences I had there.
My own effort in creating a travel record via a blog was magnified during 2020 when I intentionally spent a portion of quarantine taking time to write about my travels on my blog, mostly for my own sake.
5. Photos, scrapbooks, captions
It’s old school, but one of the classic ways to create a travel record is through scrapbooks or photo books. Although you can do a full-blown travel scrapbook on the road, for those who trust themselves to follow up and get the job done, photo books can be a great way to create a polished, physical record of your travel. You can add captions through online layout programs or by using a permanent marker on an uncaptioned copy after printing.
6. Selfie videos
Videos can be powerful travel records because they capture a location, our image, and many visual and auditory bits that printed records miss. Some travelers create a travel record by doing a 15 to 30-second selfie video every day. At the end of the trip, these videos can be placed into a montage so that when you, your friends, or your family watch your video record, they can see not only the destinations you visited but also you and your face as you experienced that place.
Including people you meet in your selfie videos may even be a good way to make friends in a hostel.
7. Mini notebooks
If a journal seems like a good idea but feels overwhelming, try a mini notebook like “Field Notes” brand pocked-size notebooks. These tiny journal-like notebooks consist of only a few pages and can fit in almost any pocket. Their size makes them great not just for creating a written travel record but also for jotting down other important information during your travel day.
8. Collecting bits
For those of us who channel a bit of trash panda, hoarding receipts, leaflets, and ticket stubs from travel can actually be put to good use as a way to create a tactile record of our travels. Although many people collect this type of souvenir for the purpose of eventually pasting it into a travel journal or scrapbook, these fragments of our trip can actually form an important record without any manipulation.
Carry a special bag, pouch, or envelope to store these items during your trip, and when you come home, place them into a box or tin that you can open and go through any time you want to review and remember your trip.
There’s no wrong way to create a record of your travels, but future-you will thank present-you if you take the time to be intentional and mindful about creating a travel record.
Artist, digital nomad, and highly sensitive person, Lynli started traveling full time as a digital nomad in 2018. Writer and Illustrator by day, remote-destination explorer by other-days, Lynli is passionate about pushing the boundaries of her own comfort zone, exploring the world as a female, fat, one-bag traveler, and journalling it all on WanderBig.com