The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
These are the words of St Augustine, a Christian theologian who died in 430 AD. And travel back then meant endless days under the beating sun or frozen sky on economy class donkeys, sustained by meagre portions of dried bread and warm wine, and no entertainment.
As someone who loves travel, I find it hard to understand people who have no desire to travel and are happy within the confines of home and hearth. Writers especially enjoy travel, as it gets us out of our writing comfort zone – being in a different environment with new things to see and do sharpens our senses, triggers our imagination and gets our creativity flowing.
Which brings me to the subject of travel journals. I love them – moleskin, leather, girly pink, macho brown, covers adorned with a map of the world, cute cartoons or announcing ‘My Journey’, coyly intimating at inner journey revelations. I love the promise of crisp, new pages waiting for the first eager words of the excited traveller to tumble on to the page.
I see myself at the end of each day, sitting in my hotel room overlooking the glittering ocean or bustling city. The mere act of opening my travel journal kick-starts my brain into literary mode. Page after page flows with clever and thought-provoking reflections of the country I’m visiting, evocative descriptions of the landscape and pertinent observations of the inhabitants, which can then be extrapolated to humanity as a whole.
Fantasy vs Reality
That’s my travel fantasy. Here’s my travel reality – I flop on to the bed, exhausted after having tramped what seemed the equivalent of a religious pilgrimage in one day. I dig out my Spirax notebook with the plain cover that says ‘Notepad 8mmm Ruled 100 page’ and notice that my last entry was 3 days ago. Damn, now I have to do catch-up.
‘What was the name of that castle/mountain/lake we saw the day before yesterday?’ I ask my partner. We both ‘um’ and ‘ah’ – our heads are so stuffed full of new experiences that our mind’s computer bank hasn’t had a chance to file them yet. So I do the best I can, but by the time I get to today’s events, I’ve run out of sparkling metaphors and witty insights. So it’s more like a schoolgirl diary entry: This morning we had breakfast. We visited some castles, came back, had a nap, went out for dinner.
The worst part is, when I’ve reading back over it later, my handwriting is so atrocious I can scarcely read it. Consequently I now have a drawer full of Spirax notebooks filled with illegible scrawlings, their contents forever lost to posterity or the murky depths of my memory.
I’m about to leave for another holiday and I’m thinking this time I’ll keep an online journal. It doesn’t have the sensual, romantic appeal of a physical travel journal, but at least I’ll be able to read it.
Have you ever kept a travel journal? Any tips you’d like to share?
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.