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Travelers typically record their trips with a camera, and few give any thought to the idea of keeping a journal. Yet preserving travel memories in a journal has some distinct advantages.
Writing allows you to record and preserve the details of your travels, allowing the excitement and adventure to continue long after you return home.
If the purpose of your trip is to understand and learn, you'll find journal keeping invaluable. Writing helps you think more clearly and gain deeper insights. It will also sharpen your ability to spot and interpret details.
If you design your travels to consistently explore a particular nature subject - say beaches or birds - or life in a particular country, your journals will let you more easily build on the knowledge gained on earlier trips.
And if you plan on turning your writings into travel articles, either for commercial publication, your family newsletter or even your own satisfaction and preservation of your travel memories, your journal will serve as a superb resource.
Type of notebook to use
Your first step is to decide the extent of your journal. Will you be writing voraciously, recording as much detail as possible, or putting down only the highlights of your day? Your answer will help you decide the size of the notebook you'll need.
Consider also your mode of travel, destination and activities when making your choice.
Among the notebooks you can choose from are small spiral-bound note pads and steno pads, bound composition books, blank-page books, or even a diary.
If you have artistic abilities, you may want to opt for a sketch book. Or you can combine sketching and writing with a notebook that's lined for half the page and blank on the other half.
If you plan to combine your journal with photographs and souvenirs from your travels, you'll want to use a loose-leaf binder or album. Obviously, these would be cumbersome to tote around the world. But you can carry a more compact journal while traveling and rework your notes after returning home.
Browse the stationary shops, office supply stores and stationary sections of department stores to see what's available. Bookstores often carry attractively bound books that contain blank pages and are intended for journal writing.
Journal supplements and aids
In addition to your journal - and a good supply of pens - you may want to consider some additional materials. A camera and tape recorder can provide non-written supplements to your journal.
If not planning to work with a loose-leaf binder or an album, consider leaving space in your journal for your photographs. Be sure to keep track of the shots you take. Make notes, either in your journal or in a separate photo notebook, identifying and giving the location of your subjects. Wait until you get home and you may find your memory blurred and your identifications inaccurate. Answer the journalist's five Ws - who, what, when, where and why.
Use a tape recorder to capture the sounds of a city, a special conversation, or the sounds of nature - thunder, bird calls, night insects and the bellows of animals.
Also use your recorder to capture the music of a place, recording the performances of local musicians. But be sure to ask permission first.
If you're traveling with a companion, you may find it easier to split up the note taking and the photography, sketching or audio taping.
For a trip exploring nature, binoculars, a hand lens or pocket microscope will help you get close-up looks and more accurate descriptions.
Keeping your journal
All your journal entries should include: date, time and location. Also jot down weather conditions. Then strive to capture the flavor of the location in your entries. Look for the details that set where you are apart from other places in the world. Record significant incidents, humorous situations and personal exchanges. When talking with people, quote as best you can what they say.
Obviously you'll make notes on what strikes you as unusual or important. But also record the seemingly mundane.
Personalize your entries by noting your impressions. Upon rereading your journal they'll play an important part in recapturing your feelings.
If on a nature exploration, make notes on the flora, fauna and nature's creatures. In addition to an animal's behavior, record the type of environment it's behaving in.
You may find compiling your journal easier by using a two-step approach. During the day, when out making your observations, just jot down a few words or phrases. These serve as memory joggers. That evening, expand your notes into a more comprehensive, detailed narrative.
Using abbreviations may also be helpful. Be sure, though, they are abbreviations you will understand later. Leaving vowels out of words is a common yet understandable form of shorthand.
Some travelers use a small, battery-operated recorder or a pocket size microcassette recorder to dictate their journal notes. Unless you plan on keeping an audio journal, though, the job of transcribing them is a tedious, time-consuming task.
When you return home and read your journal, you'll find the memories it brings back to be well worth the effort you put into writing it. And don't hide your journal away. Keep it out where you can easily pick it up and relive your adventure.