Proof of Life – Your Travel Journal
This isn’t going to be a regular blog.
This blog is going to try to convince you to actually DO something. This blog is a sales pitch to get you to think seriously about taking the step to start doing Travel Journals for yourself.
Whether you’re a hiker or paddler, a seasoned cruise ship person, or an adventure traveler, the act of doing a Travel Journal will give back to you in so many rich and unexpected ways. In the end, you will have a treasure - something few people have and EVERYONE wishes they did.
So why do a Travel Journal?
Lots of reasons.
First, you will end up with a wonderful record of you journey(s). It will stand as a kind of testament that you can point to and say, ‘I was here.’ Your Travel Journal will help you recall the details of your journey much more clearly. It will demonstrate to others (family and friends) that you captured more of the place(s) you visited than any of them could imagine. Equally important, and years from now, they will help trace the arc of your life when you look back.
All of this might sound a bit grandiose, but it’s not. It’s not self-centred or an expression of shameful pride. Your Travel Journal is one simple way you can honour the short and rich time we have to see and experience the wide/wild variety of our planetary home. (Geez....I feel like Carl Sagan trying to convince you of the cosmic place you occupy in the stretch of time and the expanse of space.)
Second, your travel journal will change you as a person.....for the better. As you travel with a journal as part of your routine, you will begin to see things differently. The exercise of the Travel Journal will make you ‘PAUSE’ to look at the world around you.
You will see the colours in deeper tones; you feel the textures of your food and its aromas more completely; you will notice the changes in vegetation and geology as you move north/south or east/west or upslope. Together, these new observational skills will lay in wait when you are back home - and when you least suspect, they will step forward and you will begin to see your own home and its surroundings in those new and different ways too.
More than anything, I think, it’s the ‘pause’ that trips the wire of your awareness and appreciation as you travel. You might be on a hike with your family or a fishing trip with your grandchildren - and, when you make time to pause along the way, your senses will begin to kick into overdrive. Take a moment then to jot down what you see and feel and hear and smell. Note how crisp the morning air is. Do a quick sketch of the bow of your fishing skiff. List the animals that you’ve seen or heard along the way.
BTW–please don’t be intimidated by the sketching…..you’re actually better at it than you think!
The results will astound you, I’m sure. Sit back at the end of your travels and graze through your Travel Journal and those sensations and memories will come back in so many tantalizing ways. You will surprise yourself. In the end, and realistically, you will probably be the only one who has recorded anything other than cell phone photographs!
Don’t get me wrong, photographs are great - but they will never trump the tactile sensuality of a Travel Journal and the alluring senses evoked by that quick sketch or written description.
And this brings me to the third reason to keep a Travel Journal - you will have something to leave behind.
For more than 30 years I worked in Museums and Archives and loved every day of that work. Something that struck me early in that career was the number of people coming in to find something about an ancestor. They may have known where their Grandparents were born/died or where a Great Uncle served in the Military. What they really wanted to know more than anything was....’Who’ were they? What were they like as a person.
Their questions were always about the ‘who’. Some of those people visiting the Archives would actually put a hand over their heart and say to me, “I want to find out something about them as a person, not just the dates on their gravestone.’ It broke my heart, so often, to have so little to offer them.
That was because - are you ready for it? The only people who are ever remembered are those who wrote it down! Ask any Archivist and you’ll get the same answer.
Your Travel Journals, in many ways, are you personal ‘Proof of Life’.
My father passed me a journal given to him by a long time family friend, Al McBroom. In 1938, Al, his sister, and her husband drove a car from Penticton, British Columbia north to Tweedsmuir Park in 1938. This was the year after Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir named the park. It was an epic journey in those early years.
Al and his wife, Bess, had no children to pass the journal along to - and it is now part of my historical collection of Travel Journals. Lots of people could find out when Al was born and when he passed away - his journal of that 1938 trip can begin to tell you so much more about his personality. He was resourceful and observant. He was adventurous and sensible. He was kind and funny.
On October 13, 1938, part of his entry he read:
Your fishing journal or hiking journal or paddle journal or travel journal is no different. It will tell your Grandchildren or your Great Niece what an observant person you were, what a kind soul you were, what a brave character you were, and so much more.
You don’t have to achieve earth changing accomplishments. What you have to do is write it down and make those little sketches and watercolours. What you have to do is take that first step.
Your descendants will be so very thankful for your foresight and thoughtfulness. Ask yourself – wouldn’t you love to have your Grandmother’s Travel Journal as she made her way to Canada or the USA or Australia? Wouldn’t you love to have your Great Uncle’s Travel Journal of his time in the Arctic or of that occasion he paddled down the MacKenzie River to the Arctic Ocean?
I made that very paddle trip myself! As part of a crew of 12, we paddled 26’ voyageur canoes 1500km from Fort Providence (at the head of Great Slave Lake) downriver to Inuvik deep in the delta of the MacKenzie River, Northwest Territories, Canada. I have my Travel Journals of that expedition to prove it, and they will get passed along to one of my 4 kids - along with the other Travel Journals from paddle trips down the Yellowstone River, Kootenay River, Missiouri River, Nechako River and more.
Of course, like every good Dad....I tell my children that, in the future, my Travel Journals will be worth millions of dollars. :-) Who knows...right? And if they’re not worth millions of dollars, I hope they will at least help inspire them to go and do and see and experience new places. I hope these Travel Journals will spark one of the truly important character traits that we all aspire to emulate - curiosity.
There are so many things that pull our attention away from the really important actions we know we should take. Don’t let those distractions take you away from starting your own Travel Journal(s). The historian/curator in me can tell you with full certainty that you will be a more complete person when you do this.
When you sit down with one of your Grandchildren 50 years from now and look and read through one of your Travel Journals, your heart will be full when you see the spark of curiosity that you’ve planted in them.
Now, that is a real legacy to leave, don’t you think.
Finally, if you didn’t write a travel journal and wish you had, then there are fast and simple ways that you can re-create your travels in a Travel Journal. Get in touch with me and I’ll tell you how.
A new Facebook Group is where I am hosting a whole new array of tips and trick and hacks to help you get your very own Travel Journal under way - Hikers-Paddlers-Travelers Journal. I hope you will join this Facebook Group to find lots of ways that you can make your Travel Journal experience even richer.
You have my email with this blog, so please email right now and tell me what you think.
I'd love to know what’s holding you back.
Tell me what you need to get your Travel Journal going.