When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we knew we’d be gone almost 4 weeks. (What can I say—I love to travel!) Four weeks is a loooong time, especially when you’ve got it jam-packed with hiking, biking, river rafting, museums, etc. I knew from the start I wanted to keep track of this epic trip—the trip that would (dramatic pause) define our marriage. That’s how honeymoons work, right?
As part of our packing preparations, I picked up a journal from our local bookstore.
The pages are that aged cream color I imagine matches 19th century explorers’ own journals. It’s filled with inspirational travel quotes. And, what I think just kicks this journal up a notch, it has a magnetic cover to keep your journal securely closed. I almost didn’t want to write in it, it was so beautiful.
But write in it I did, and not nearly enough. My husband and I have gone on three major trips since we’ve been married: our honeymoon, Folly Beach with his family that led into our first anniversary trip to a B&B in North Carolina, and a week-long trip to visit friends in San Diego. Our honeymoon made it into the journal. Folly Beach half-made it. And, alas, San Diego did not make it at all.
That is my biggest travel regret.
It’s not being too scared of driving on a mountain road with no guardrails that we couldn’t make it to our horseback riding in Colorado. It’s not being too scared to hike very far down into the Grand Canyon (again, no safety rails). I can forgive myself for being scared. That I didn’t write in my travel journal AT ALL in San Diego is unforgivable.
How else am I supposed remember staying up till 2 AM (5 AM EST) talking to friends from high school? How will I remember our near-debacle at Point Lomas? In ten years, how will I remember our somewhat chilly bonfire on the beach next to overly friendly hippies who offered to share their weed? Well, writing this blog post helps, but I’ve already lost so much of the specifics from those memories--and that trip was less than a year ago!
Fellow Traveler, you know I think travel is important—the most important!
But holding on to your memories of the people you meet is just as important. You’re likely to remember the stunning views of the Grand Canyon, and the sense of wonder you felt when you saw a mama moose and her baby in the wild. But will you really remember the owner of the B&B who gifted you her own shirt?
(True story: At our B&B in Flagstaff, which not only had the most comfortable bed & sheets I have ever slept on but also the kindest owners, we had to wait quite a bit after our checkout because our taxi was late. Annette, one of the owners, was bustling about cleaning, making some small talk with us. She disappeared and came back with a purple-flowered shirt.
“I can’t really wear this anymore, do you want it?” she asked. Stunned, I looked at my husband.
“Um, sure?” I responded.
“I was going through my things & I put this aside because I thought it would fit you. If you don’t want it, I can just donate it.”
“No, it’s very pretty! Thank you!”)
Who does that? Who gives someone they’ve known two days a shirt? Annette did. I didn’t even remember the story of Annette and the Shirt until I cracked open my travel journal. As I get older & arguably more jaded, I want to remember people like Annette. I want to read the proof that people like her exist and that I experienced it firsthand.
If it weren’t for my travel journal, I wouldn’t remember our boat trip on Grand Lake with a group of people who already knew each other, yet were very willing to include us in their conversation and share their beer. If it weren’t for my travel journal, I wouldn’t remember the kind, yet eccentric Nepalese woman who clearly thought she was doing my husband a favor by reading his palm and assuring him that I would leave him, but he would be extremely rich and successful. If it weren’t for my travel journal, I wouldn’t remember our taxi driver in New Orleans, who drove too fast, but was a warm and welcoming Dr. John/Harvey Fierstein hybrid.
Fellow Traveler, I would hate for you to forget all the fascinating people you meet on your travels. You’ll probably remember the beautiful smoothwater raft trip you took down the Colorado River, but you might forget that family from Mexico City who joined you.
Everyone has a story, and you owe it to them and to yourself to remember the brief point in time where your lives collided.
Keep a travel journal.
Now get out there and go!