When you are traveling or on vacation, there are so many moments that shape your experience, you will never be able to remember them all. If ten years from now we are forced to remember or relive Honey Boo Boo or the Kardashians, shouldn’t we be able to return to the adventures and stories that shaped our lives?
I think the best way to capture the moment is to write about it. When you’re traveling, by all means, take as many photos as you can. But photos only capture what’s happening on the outside and don’t quite capture how excited or scared you were after that Class 4 rapid or how delicious or nauseating your first street food experience was. Most photos get taken when you get to where you’re going and not along the way, but the way is often more interesting than the destination.
It’s not just the waterfall you hiked to in Nicaragua but the bridges and cliffs you passed to get there. What about when you went bungee jumping in New Zealand? I’m sure someone photographed your swan dive into the abyss, but most of the experience was the terrible fear climbing on to that platform and the feeling of accomplishment once you survived the plunge. For every picture of you standing in front of the Eifel Tower there are a hundred local interactions or wrong turns that made the day much more interesting.
Writing about your travels can help you keep all of the little details that might have otherwise fallen by the wayside or been forgotten. Once you decide to do it, you come to this fork in the road: To blog or not to blog? Let’s explore.
Everyone’s a blogger so this isn’t a new idea, but it’s important to distinguish the difference between a blog or a journal. The most basic conceptual difference is that a journal is for you and a blog is for everyone else. Writing in a blog is a great way to keep people that care about you informed about where you are and what you’re doing. It’s a way to create and share fun stories and connect with people about your travels. With a blog, you can engage an audience in a way that could impact your trip (“I see you’re in Tuscany. You should check out this vineyard!”).
Blogs are also great because they are forever - they won’t burn in a fire or get eaten by the dog. They are easy to keep organized, enable you to attach pictures to the stories they belong to, and you can access them from almost anywhere in the world.
Blogs are great tools or platforms for sharing good times but they are public and that will ultimately affect what you put in them. You basically have to assume that everything you write on your blog will be read by your parents, your children, your grandmother, your boss, and your future employers. The story you would tell your best friend about your trip to Cabo might be different than the one you would tell Grandma Jane. The opportunity to share your experiences is great but what you’re left with may not be a true reflection of your experience.
Not to Blog!
Journals are a great way to record your adventures because you can write how you feel and not worry about what people will think or that Grandma Jane will finally discover the Internet the instant you write that you have a new favorite apple pie. You don’t need to worry about spelling or whether your tenses agree or not. You can write about how scared you actually were climbing Huayna Picchu, the steep-trailed mountain above the famous Incan city. Or you can capture the personal moments between you and a loved one – there aren’t too many blog posts about honeymoons but they are routinely people’s favorite vacations.
The great thing about a journal is that you can take it with you as a resource. It doesn’t have to be deep and thoughtful, you might just scribble directions in there or useful words if you’re in a country that speaks a different language. Looking back you might see “embarazada” and remember the time you tried to tell someone in Spanish that you were embarrassed but actually told them that you were pregnant. If you have a journal with you, it can be part of your experience instead of being about your experience.
Journals, however, are less useful if your backpack gets left on a train or stolen off a bus. They can get lost in moves or ruined by a poorly placed glass of water. And you physically have to have it to reference it. If you are not in your house at the moment you want to reminisce, find that word, or those directions, you are out of luck. Also, they don’t share themselves. You may be having the time of your life and your Facebook updates likely don’t tell the whole story.
Whether you write for you or you write for everyone else, it doesn’t matter – just write. You’ll regret forgetting the name of restaurant on the corner or the first cove you went snorkeling in. And if you keep your memories written somewhere, next time the news leads with a reality TV catfight or Miley Cyrus media blunder, you’ll have something better to do.