Since my middle school days, I’ve been one of those who brings a sketchbook with me when I travel, whether overseas or across town. I enjoy drawing and feel like taking the time to draw memories from where I go forces me to pay attention to what I’m seeing, since its far more work than simply snapping the shutter of a camera.
But even if you aren’t interested in sketching (though I must note that there’s no better way to improve your drawing abilities than to have a sketchbook and keep practicing!) You still might enjoy bringing a prepared blank book with you to record your trip. Memories are so much fresher at the end of the travel day than they are after you’re back and the suitcases are unpacked and the phone calls are returned and life gets moving again.
I usually bring a blank, hardbound book, either 4×6 or 5×8, so its small enough to carry or to toss in a purse. Bringing the book along with me during the day reminds to record and collect things – when we sit down I can make a quick sketch, the postcard gets placed as soon as I buy it, we can record memories over dessert.
Before I leave home I do a little prep work:
1. Sticky pages: Place pieces of double sided adhesive to the pages, but don’t peel the top layer of backing off. When you are ready to attach a ticket-stub, menu, or postcard, peel off the backing and you’re ready to stick.
2. Slot Pocket Pages: Cut piece of wide tape the width of your page, and lay sticky side up on your workspace. Cut a strip of paper 1/2 inch narrower and shorter than your strip of tape, and carefully lay it along the top edge of the tape. flip the tape strip over, and tape onto the page. This makes a nice row of pockets for tucking small mementos into your book (see the brown scrap “mementos” I stuck in my book to show how it works.)
3. Envelope pages: Tape or glue envelopes (small, large, manila, waxed paper, decorative) to some pages. Then stick mementos in the envelopes as you go. This makes your book interactive, with things to open and take out.
4. Map page: Often, I glue a street map to the inside cover, which gives a discreet way to find out where you are.
Other fun activities for your book:
1. Every evening of our trip, Hubbs and I add 10 items to a list of memories from the day. The best memories seem to be the “insignificant details” that help trigger memories of specific moments. Its really fun to review the list, even by the last day of the trip we’re surprised at how much we’ve forgotten. And don’t feel like you need to write don’t too many more than 10 memories/day – trip lists of around 100 memories are fun to review, trip lists of 1000 memories, not so much.
2. Speaking of lists, make lists over your time of foods eaten, strange things seen in stores, things of note you’ve seen floating in the river, funny things overheard, etc. (I know, I’m a sucker for lists)
3. Open your book, turn your pencil sideways and make rubbings of noteworthy tombstones or carvings.
4. Museums often have stamps, embossers, or other markers scattered throughout exhibits, that are fun to put in the book (ok, ok, they’re there for the kids. But these are fun souvenirs for your sketchbook also).
5. I’ve also been known to put coffee stains, bright red prickly pear juice, terra-cotta mud smears, or other things that would make a good mark in the book.
In summary, even if you don’t consider yourself to be “the artistic type” you can still come home with an artistic book that records the memories of your trip in a unique, creative way.