How to Keep a Travel Journal
By: Lynn Burkhead
Active RVers love reminiscing, reliving wonderful moments with family and friends that were so significant and remarkable in the times and places they occurred while on an RV adventure.
The spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico in northwestern Florida on the last night of a family gathering. The soft glow of the campfire as the kids roasted marshmallows after a day spent touring Yellowstone National Park. The shaft of sunlight that penetrated misty clouds and illuminated the Grand Canyon. The golden beauty of quaking aspens in the Colorado Rockies on a morning where the autumn season’s first snowfall has dusted the 14,000-foot peaks. And the smiles and giggles of a young child or grandchild, after a bath has washed off layers of dirt and mud from a hard-earned day.
Whatever our favorite travel moments might be, even the most vivid of memories can fade over time, sometimes with key instances and subtle details being forgotten and eventually lost forever. It’s why keeping a travel journal is a great idea.
How do you do that? Whether you choose to remember your treasured trips via old school or new school ways, the process is quite simple.
If keeping a hard copy of a travel journal (old school, the kids might say) is your preferred method of documenting memories, it all starts with the actual purchase of a journal, one that has enough empty pages to record thoughts, memories, and even mementoes picked up along the way on your journey.
While a regular old dime-store composition book will certainly work, don’t be afraid to splurge on something a little bigger, a little more visually bold, a hardbound volume that lets you know in an instant’s glance that the journal records the details of that amazing trip you and your loved ones once took.
Once you have your travel journal in hand, purchase a few supplies to go with it, things like a handful of reliable pens to jot down memories and moments, artsy pencils if you like drawing scenes that your family has witnessed, and even transparent two-sided tape to attach the business card of a special little café where you stopped on the way up the mountain.
After that, your journaling canvas is blank; don’t be afraid to fill it up, starting days and weeks before the trip begins as planning happens, anticipation builds, and the packing commences. Once you hit the road, continue to record all kinds of thoughts, remembrances, details and easily forgotten moments, things that will make you and others smile weeks, months, and years down the road. And don’t be afraid to accumulate a few mementoes to tuck away in your journal, things like a business card, a pamphlet … maybe even a leaf that caught your eye.
Since the goal is to use the journal as a means of documenting what you are seeing and experiencing, endeavor to start each day with a brief synopsis of what the planned itinerary, or alternative plan, is and how you are anticipating the day unfolding.
Then as everything unfolds throughout the day, keep the journal handy to record such thoughts in the heat of the moment. Do so as you are riding shotgun in the passenger’s seat soaking in the surrounding beauty, as family conversations and laughs take place, when you stop for lunch at a roadside diner off the beaten path, and as you check off the bucket list moments that you’ve dreamed of for years.
Sitting around the campfire later that evening, or as you get ready to drift off to sleep, circle back to the journal at the end of the day. Capture anything forgotten, compare what you anticipated versus what really happened, and the indelible thoughts and mental images that will cause a weary smile to crease your face as you close your eyes for bedtime.
At the risk of belaboring the point, keeping a travel journal to document your RV trips can help you recall a special few days spent on the trip of a lifetime or a simple journey to a campground for the weekend. And as time passes by, odds are, such hardbound journals will become treasures that help you recall amazing moments in life spent with family, friends, and loved ones.
Keep in mind there are other ways to document moments, feelings, and memories – new-school ways that can help engage the younger generations of your family.
One way is by taking plenty of photographs, either with a smartphone or a digital SLR camera. For outdoor television show host Tiffany Lakosky, there’s no better way to remember than through the power of a photograph, letting the image tell the story.
“Traveling with a film crew, we have the luxury of documenting everything on our show,” laughed Lakosky. “And it’s always fun to watch and relive those experiences when a finished episode airs. Plus, we’re always documenting our journeys for our fans on social media sites. For me personally, I’m a big believer in taking photos in the moment and then printing those out and framing them to display around our house back in Iowa. That’s one way that I can remember those special moments.”
Speaking of social media, don’t be afraid to use these modern platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat as a means of documenting your journeys. Such means of cyber-documentation are especially important to teenagers and their friends.
“In the morning, I’ll let my girls get up, move about at their own pace, and have some moments to connect with their friends by social media or texts,” said Gregg Ritz, popular outdoor television show host and the father of three daughters. “They get to connect with questions like where are you, what are you doing, the gossip train stuff that my girls like to be involved in. At some point, early on, I’ll say something like ‘OK, girls, it’s wheels up and we’re on the road by 9 a.m. so we can be hiking by 10 a.m.’ That way we’re working towards a concrete start time.”
Ritz says mobile devices aren’t necessarily good or bad, it’s more about how they are used and what happens with them that matters.
“If you allow careful use, then a mobile device not only allows kids to connect and interact with friends, it also becomes a way to document the trip through Instagram stories, through photos, etc.,” he said. “We do all of this together as a family and when they have their mobile devices with them, it’s not only me taking a shot of beautiful scenery, it’s my girls doing it, too, with their phones. And often, they’ll be the ones that find something unique along the way. Finding that special moment allows them to curate that content that gives them a connection with a modern device, but does so in a memorable way.”
In the same way, Ritz allows his girls to carefully engage the mobile devices again later in the day.
“I try to plan a landing pad time before dinner, to give them an hour or two to unwind from the day,” he said. “That allows them to connect with their friends again, to post memories on social media, and to do so before dinner. By using blocks of time built into the day’s schedule, it allows my daughters to engage with their friends, to see what those friends are doing, to tell the story of our day, and it takes some anxiousness away.”
All of this highlights a deep conviction that Ritz has, that parenting is as much about the bonds forged, the memories created, the engagement between a parent and a child, as surely as it is about the amount of time spent together on a calendar day. And embracing technology and social media to document a trip is one way that he tries to make sure that happens.
“We document our trips a lot through social media,” said Ritz. “But afterwards, I try to highlight for them some of the memories that we made. On their birthdays, at Christmas, times like that, I’ll try to pick out and isolate a specific memory from a trip. Instead of remembering the trip as a big blur, I try to give them a photograph that helps them visualize something like the day that we climbed to the top of Mount Major (in New Hampshire). Over time, that helps these trips to create a legacy within our family.”
Ritz is a big believer in the power of an RV trip with his family, both grand excursions and simple weekend getaways. And he’s also a big believer in documenting the moments and the memories that such trips provide.
“RVing is one of the greatest ways to make memories with your kids, to hand down something to them that they can eventually hand down to their kids,” he said. “It’s a break from the daily routine around the house, the repetitive cycle that life can turn into. By creating these special travel times, and the events and moments that come with such journeys, RVing trips help bring fun and memories, even if you get stressed out a little bit in pulling it all off.”
And as you go about pulling off such RVing trips, don’t forget to document the journey, either by writing in an old-school hardbound journal, or by turning on the smartphone or tablet and embracing the social media and technology that helps run the world today.
Either way, you’re documenting some of the most fleeting and memorable moments in life – times spent with family, friends, and those that you love. And who wouldn’t want to document that?