A friend of mine is visiting Tokyo and asked for some tips since Travelin' Dad and I had a 24-hour-whirlwind stopover there in 2005. So I dug out my handwritten travel journal. Without that journal, there is no way I could have told him the name of the amazing tempura shop at the Shinjuku station, or warn him of the $20 cover charge to have a drink at the Park Hyatt's New York Bar (where Lost in Translation was filmed - well worth the money, by the way), or tell him which sushi stall we ate the freshest most delicious sushi (for breakfast!) just outside of the bustling Fish Market. There are several reasons why it is great to keep an old-fashioned, written travel journal:
- Practical Reasons: Let's face it, memories fade. Even though you think you'll never forget the name/location of that amazing outside bar in Madrid where the bartender actually bought you back every third drink, you will forget. I find that being a mother has lessened my memory even more - between keeping on top of play dates and all the other millions of details that go along with kids, I just don't have the same brain capacity as I used to. So for very practical reasons, it is great to keep a travel journal to record details like flights, hotels, expenses, restaurants, and activities. There are some destinations that you may go back to again and again in your lifetime (for example, a favorite summer beach vacation), and you'll want a written record so you can repeat great experiences (and avoid bad ones). And even if you won't ever get back to the same destination, you will be a great source of information for your friends with kids, co-workers, family members, etc.
- Sentimental Reasons: I got a little misty-eyed when I read my travel journal from Tokyo and Southeast Asia. It generated so many feelings about the wonderment of travel. I laughed at so many things I hadn't thought of in years - including a funny story about that tempura shop. Travelin' Dad kept trying to ask for the check (as best he could considering no one spoke English and we didn't speak Japanese). After multiple failed attempts and our waiter making bewildered pointing gestures at the table, we realized the check had been tucked into a little pocket underneath the table for who knows how long! Aside from getting pleasure from reading your own journals later in life, these mementos can be passed down to your children (won't TJ get a kick out of the fact that Mom and Dad sat in the same seat as Bill Murray!) and kept as family heirlooms. I'm obviously a fan of blogging, but there are so many more personal details that can be captured by a travel journal that it is well worth the effort to keep a written record. It is also a great place to stash little souvenirs like restaurant cards, post cards, or ticket stubs.
- Living In The Now: Traveling with kids can be hectic. There is something about forcing yourself to write in a journal every day. I like doing it at night, so I can review the day in peace and quiet, while the impressions are still fresh. Writing makes you stop and appreciate the experiences of that day.
So next time you travel, stash a special hard-covered journal in your suitcase and enjoy the many benefits of recording your thoughts in writing.