Memories are fleeting. They come and go just as quickly as a car passes by on the street. Most of them we won’t remember; only the ones that leave a lasting impression stick like gum on the ever expanding sidewalk of your life.
Some memories you think you’ll remember forever. How could I forget about that time we waited 4 hours for the bus? Believe it or not, you forget more than you think. Whenever you travel, you’re being hit with new people, sights, sounds, food, activities, and stories all at the same time. Talk about sensory overload! There are so many ways to keep track of your experiences, so you have them to look back on in years to come. Travel memories are just as important as the experience itself.
One way that I personally combat this memory decomposition is by journaling. It helps that I love writing and that I find calmness in doing it. Whenever I travel, I write down details about every single day. I write down what I did from the morning right up until that night. I write my thoughts, prices of things, the people I hung out with, and the stories I’ve heard. It works as a memory bank for me.
Before you think this is silly, I’ll prove how wonderful this habit is. I started to journal like this on my first trip to Ireland in 5th grade. I stored it away afterwards and let it collect dust for 8 years. I recently reread everything and relived my entire trip. Granted, I was very young so I don’t remember a lot, but it just goes to show how much almost a decade wears away your memory. My favorite line was how I “ordered chicken fingers, French fries, soup, and a hot dog for dinner.” I have no recollection of this particular instance of gluttonous indulgence, but it sure as hell sounds like me.
Journal as often and in whatever manner you’d like; whether it’s a phrase for the entire day or a doodle of the view from a beach-side cafe. You will be thankful you did so, especially when you reread it years later. Your journal will become your Bible. I only remember as many stories as I do because I’ve written them all down! In fact, I completely forgot about breaking my bike key in my lock until I reread it in my journal.
Keeping a journal also allows you to appreciate what you learned that day and really think about a new experience you had. When you write it down, you’re reliving that experience word by word and fully appreciating everything that happened. This can happen with anything, even a seemingly mundane task such as shopping for groceries.
Keeping a journal is like keeping an item frozen in time of your younger self. All of your thoughts, your beliefs, your rationale; everything is in one place for your older self to look back on and laugh at. In years to come, you will be able to see exactly what you were thinking and why. It’s a free trip down memory lane.
If you’re not into writing, there are other ways to capture your thoughts and memories: Videos or audio recordings. These will definitely take less time than writing or typing something, and it’s YOU, in person, talking! Keep in mind though, technology can break, a journal cannot (unless you lose it. Or throw it into the ocean).
Of course, then there are the pictures. Personally, I’d rather have a journal since it’s more personalized, but I’m thankfully able to have both! Readers, I’m sure you take plenty of pictures; it’s the age of the selfie. Pictures capture a moment in time with color that may have faded from our memory. Just as journals do, they reveal your younger self to look back on in years to come. This is a great way to capture the essence of a place you love. Make a photo album, collage, or print out your favorite pictures so you have them in real life to hold on to.
Interacting with the locals is yet another way to get the most out of your trip and hold on to your memories. Interacting with the locals allows you to learn about the culture and may lead you into making a new friend in another country. You will have memories to reminisce over in years to come, and may even be able to visit them again in the future. Revisiting a place that is only something distant in your memory is truly a way to show how you have grown as a person and how you appreciate another place.
Lastly, try the local cuisine. You’re going to remember that snake heart more than that chicken with gravy (unless it was out of this world). When you remember something strange you’ve eaten, it opens the gateway to memories surrounding that occasion.
Do you have any more suggestions on how to make the most of your trip abroad?