How do you keep track of your greatest life experiences/accomplishments? I can finally admit my memories alone just don’t cut it. They fade and get influenced; however, when I read something I wrote describing the experience, the memory is refreshed and I can recall it like it happened yesterday. After 5 months on the road, I’ve finally found the most effective way (for me) to document my traveling. It will allow me to accurately list the top 10-20 experiences from this 12 month trip and it has turned into a positive daily reflection tool, which I will continue after this trip with an emphasis on personal goal assessment and completion.
Since I’m on the go most of the time, it’s inconvenient to be constantly pulling out a pen and notebook to jot down information—not to mention it makes my OCD senses tingle looking at a page of unorganized notes. Instead, I use the notepad in my phone to note what I need at the given moment—the cost of a meal, funny quote, correct spelling of a town, etc.
In the morning, I go back through the phone and fill out my journal in a nice, organized fashion, reflecting on the entire day before writing out the daily highlights. Then I appease my OCD and delete the unorganized phone notes. A typical entry can be seen below; it includes the date and the daily locations, meals, expenses, highlights and any miscellaneous notes (still hadn’t gotten used to it being 2013 yet).
I wanted to keep a daily journal of my travels for both sentimental and analytical reasons. The sentimental aspect tracks meals, interesting thoughts/revelations and my daily highlights. Before I left I set a goal for myself to record at least 3 daily highlights. Initially it was just to keep me appreciative of the journey I was on, but it ended up evolving into much more.
Monthly and trip highlights – keeping daily highlights allows me to go back at the end of the month and reflect on my 10-15 top highlights of the month. When I finish the trip I can go back over my monthly highlights and figure out what the top highlights of my entire trip were. When I continue this practice in my post-travel life, this will be a great indication of the goals I accomplished during the year.
Remembering the small stuff – As I travel the world, constantly being exposed to different cultures and experiences, it’s easy to imagine I have some absolutely mind-blowing days. Days leaving me in disbelief of my life right now, my pen moving manically on the page as I try to capture the essence of the experiences. It’s easy to get caught up with these times and forget about the small stuff. I would have forgotten narrowly missing the daily, afternoon Bali island downpour by pulling our motor scooters into a side-of-the-road shack, eating some delicious local naci champur and talking about nothing in particular for 2 hours until the rain relented. The daily highlights help me remember the seemingly insignificant moments, which can turn out to be some of my favorite memories.
Staying positive – driving through New Zealand I managed to slide off the road and get my van stuck bad enough to require a tow truck to get me out. It took a large portion of my budget allocated for much more exciting travel and put me in a dismal mood for the rest of the day; until I sat down to write out my highlights. I like to keep them positive, and as I pondered the event I realized how incredibly lucky and wonderful the experience was: I didn’t get hurt, the van (which I didn’t buy insurance for) was perfectly ok and I got to experience the amazing kindness of the people who stopped to help me. Something unexpected had happened to me; initially, I decided to dwell on the negative, and let it ruin the rest of my day. The highlight reflection is a constant reminder of how lucky I am, and it helps me to spend my time being thankful, rather than bitter.
Substitute for daily journaling – Initially, I was sitting down every day and journaling exactly what I did. It was boring, time consuming and lasted just 17 days before I gave up on it and relied exclusively on highlights to give me a reflection of the day. As my travels progressed, I found myself looking back on my entries, reading highlights like “Nugget point” and not feeling the nostalgia I felt reading my earlier journal entries. The highlights evolved into what I call “elaborative highlights.” So, “Nugget point” would be expanded upon to include what I did there and why it was a positive experience for me.
The analytical aspect tracks dates, spending, locations, planning, tasks to complete and other miscellaneous logistical notes. I have found this helpful (the more specific, the better) for writing blog posts further down the line. I know exactly where I was on what day, where I stayed, what I was doing and how much I was spending, which is helpful for answering logistical questions from people interested in visiting the same places. It’s also helpful when cross-referencing pictures; I can use the date stamp from the photos to see where the photo was taken and what was happening.
It’s my last week in South Africa and I can’t recommend this country enough. My favorite stops were Drakensberg and Coffee Bay and when I get all caught up with pictures you will see why.
This post should serve as a precursor to the next few posts which will be the monthly highlight from my trip so far: funny anecdotes, interesting experiences, weirdness, etc.
The featured image was taken on Koh Samui island in Thailand and the sign translates to: please don’t litter.