Travel on My Mind – and in My Memoirs

October 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Memoir Space

Walking the Boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park © 2010 Bo Mackison

Travel is on my mind.

Recently I’ve been consulting maps, researching places to visit, adding up miles for potential drives, and making camping reservations in parks throughout the American West. And in the last two weeks I traveled over 5,000 miles and visited a half dozen National Parks. So it is no wonder that when it came time to write about the monthly memoir project, travel was on my mind.

Travel memoirs come in all sizes and shapes. A weekend exploring the jazz scene in the big city. A week rafting the Grand Canyon with fellow adventurers. A month touring wine country in Italy and learning the trade from vintners. All kinds of travel can provide moments worth writing about, worth capturing for posterity.

I have found in the past, though, that trying to recall travel memories can be unexpectedly difficult. After taking long vacations each year with my husband and three children for nearly a decade, our itineraries seemed to be hopeless puzzles. We had lots of memories, but lots of our memories were in conflict.  A few years ago I decided to begin taking notes during my trip for future reference, but I knew I’d never have the time or discipline to do a daily journal. Still, I needed a writing routine.

I came up with various techniques for documenting where I go on my travels and what I do. Here are a few techniques I use now while traveling:

  • I discovered that when driving cross country we asked many questions about the areas we drove through, but we seldom remembered to look up the answers. Once I realized this, I found an easy solution. I purchased an up to date atlas when we took trips involving lots of driving time and destinations. As I checked directions and followed the map, I wrote all the questions we asked right up on the map. When we had questions about the Nebraska Sandhills, I wrote them right on the map where the Nebraska Sandhills were located.  When we wanted to know the difference between a wash and an arroya, I wrote the question in the margin of the Arizona state map. All of the questions were in one easy, accessible place, and once we returned home, we spent an enjoyable evening looking up the answers on the internet.
  • It is also easy to highlight your route in the atlas or on a map with a bright colored marker, add dates, even write notes about campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, tours, museums, parks, etc.
  • When traveling, it is easy to pick up tour brochures or city guides, but also easy to misplace all those loose papers. I now pack an empty tote bag, and whenever we pick up information, all the papers go into the bag. Not only does it keep the car less cluttered, but all the information is in one place when we arrive home. Then it is easy to refer to the various maps and guides when a certain piece of information is needed at a later time.
  • I often take quick photos of information signs, hotel and restaurant names, and other interpretive signs. Since I usually have a camera in my hand more often than I carry paper and pencil, especially on hikes or tours, I find this an easy way to capture names, places, and information I might otherwise forget.

Travel adds a special dimension to our lives, but with so many new activities and sights packed into a short time, it is easy to forget the details. Taking a few moments to jot down new information on a map, collect brochures, or photograph important signs will give you plenty of memory joggers when it is time to write about your experiences.


2 Responses to “Travel on My Mind – and in My Memoirs”
  1. Anne Maybus says:

    What a great photo you have taken, Bo. It makes me want to wander along the boardwalk and see what I can find. Yes, a camera would be better than pen and paper here for sure.

  2. Bo Mackison says:

    Thanks, Anne. You are so right — a camera does have many uses!