Travelling enriches you as a person. Being exposed to different traditions, language, points of view, gastronomy… That joy of discovering something new makes travelling such an unique experience.
It is already my 6th month of travelling around Asia, and sadly, I am only starting a journal now. While I was on the plane on my way to Tokyo, I come to realise how much of the trips earlier this year I had already forgotten. To be honest, I though that taking videos and pictures would be enough for me to remember all the experiences and joys of the places I have been to, but I realised that is not enough. While a picture it’s worth a thousand words, it is way too easy to forget why you took that picture. Then when you scroll back in time, you come to realise that there are certain pictures you can’t really recall what they are about. Truth is, a moment is more than a picture. A moment requires a what, when, where and why. However, a picture is usually the “what”, though the “when” and “where” are often saved as metadata which is good.
I decided that it was time to start remembering better, and I had to start right now.
A prime example of memory gone wrong
Lets face it, we often overestimate our capacity to remember stuff. I have been guilty of that mistake way too many times. Lets take for example the first time I was in Jakarta. The first day I went to a local restaurant and tried to make a sensible food choice after reading the menu, only to realise I didn’t understand anything (I kid you not, some menus do not have pictures). So I did what many of us do, just ask the waitress what are the “must-try” dishes for any first-timer. He suggested a few funny sounding dishes which I promptly ordered without second-guessing and 30 minutes later they were served. Now it was time enjoy these local delights… Not! No one is eating anything until I instagram the heck out of all these plates! Click, click, click, click, no wait this is a bad angle, click, click, done. Now let’s eat.
6 months later I am staring at these pictures of foods and most of them are not telling me anything. I can’t remember their names, I can’t remember how they tasted, what they were made of, how much did they cost… Nothing. With the exception of some of them that made a lasting impression, the rest could very well have been taken by someone else. In fact, my memory is so bad that if anyone asked about them and realised how little do I remember they would think I made up the whole visit and downloaded the pics from somewhere on the internet.
Unless the picture is self explanatory, it is a good idea to include more information along with it, for which structured note taking is the perfect tool.
Why keeping a structured travel journal is better than just taking a bunch of pictures
You might be thinking: “Structured? Is not enough to have normal journal?”. Well, in my opinion any sort of journalling is much better than just pictures. However when you structure your journalling, you make the process faster and more organized. Structured note taking is a fancy term for what we otherwise know as making a form or a personal database. This way, you will be making sure you don’t forget to write any detail you might want to remember about the experience.
Choosing what details you should include with each experience is a very personal decision. For example, lets say I am a foodie and I want to remember as much as possible of the dishes I try when I travel. My Food travel journal could have the following information:
- Type of dish
- Main ingredients
- Location and name of the restaurant/place
- Overall rating
It doesn’t mean that you have to fill all the information every time you make an entry, but at least this way you get reminded of all the different details you might want to record as opposed to writing the whole experience as text and risking forgetting on some details that could have been easily captured. Furthermore, you might realise you have to ask the waitress to fill in the information, this way you learn more about the experience as you are making a record of it.
Depending on what information you want to remember, you could make different kinds of “templates”. For example, if you just want to remember the highlights of the trip (wether a dish, a place, a thing, a person, or what have you) you can make a more general template with these fields:
- Why it caught my attention
This way you will make sure that information is neatly organised and easily accesible at a later date.
The best travel journal app
Now that I made the case for keeping a structured journal, let me introduce my tool of choice: Klevernote. With Klevernote you can easily personalise your templates and make entries with the snap of a finger, It’s easy, fast and beautiful, and on top of that, totally free. Go ahead and download Klevernote on the app store.