I suspect there are a million different ways to keep a travelogue, especially in the digital age. This is a topic I’ve had on the list for a long time. But, to be honest, I don’t feel like I created an ideal system so have been hesitant to share. Still, this blog is about sharing my experiences in hopes they will offer ideas for others. Plus, since I don’t intend to change the way I keep my travelogue, if I wait until I had everything figured out, this post might never see the light of day.
But before I share, I want to take a step back to the beginning. Well, actually, long before the beginning that, then, informed the beginning. Don’t worry. That’ll make sense in a minute.
The Origins of the Idea
Many years ago, I used to get a catalog from a company that was all about written words. Both the act of writing and the act of reading. I wish I remembered the name of the company but I don’t.
The catalog was filled with beautiful photos of pens, pencils, desks, bookshelves, book markers, book darts and so on. I was in graduate school and the proverbial starving student so mostly I could only look and salivate over the catalog. Did I mention that everything was high-end and, therefore, expensive?
My best (and only, it turned out) purchase through the catalog was a book weight. Do you know what those are? It looks like a ruler with weights on either end and it holds a book open for you. In turned out I never used it for reading as I imagined I would but used it all the time for cooking. It was great to keep a cookbook open to the right page while following a recipe. I carried it with me into RV life even though none of my cookbooks made it.
Anyway, a few friends and I decided to get together once a month to talk about books. We called it a book club but, in the end, it was so short-lived (maybe four months) that I never think of it as one. Maybe that’s because the one I joined next (you might remember, the group joined me at the Balloon Fiesta) is approaching 20 years together.
Books I’ve Read
I know we don’t wander book stores much these days looking for titles and covers that speak to us. But remember when we did? Long before online shopping was a thing. Heck, before being online was in our vernacular.
I read a lot and something that occasionally used to happen to me was that, during my time wandering up and down isles at a bookstore, a book would catch my eye. The back of the book pulled me in even further. And the book would end up in my arms to the check-out counter.
Then I’d take my purchase home only to discover that very same book was on my shelf because I’d already read it.
I loved the idea of a book club, envisioning it going on for years. So I sought to find a way to honor that in some way. Plus, I figured if I kept a record of books I’d read, it would be a way to stop buying the same book twice.
Enter: a flagged page in the books/writing catalog. They had a book journal that I coveted for a year or more. Each page of the journal was dedicated to a single book and allowed you space to write a synopsis, your impressions of the book, etc. In addition to the problem of repeat book buying, the other thing I hated was when I couldn’t remember the plot of a book that I knew I’d read. This book journal seemed like the perfect solution.
The reason I only flagged it to drool over was I wasn’t sure I could justify spending the money. Money, I didn’t really have. But during our meeting to discuss the new book club, I pulled out the catalog and showed the group the book journal which they ended up loving as much as I did. I justified the purchase since, now, I was ordering four.
I tried. And, turns out, I coveted too long. The journals were something the company no longer offered.
What Does Any of This Have to Do with a Travelogue?
Okay, maybe nothing. But 25 years later I still think of that book journal sometimes. How it was going to be the perfect solution and how much I was going to love it. In case you are wondering, it took another five years before I started keeping a list of the books I read. First a list on note cards and then I moved everything into a simple Excel spreadsheet. It doesn’t include synopsis or my impressions and it isn’t pretty. But, at least, it addresses the issue of no repeat purchases.
A year or so before I hit the road, I turned my attention to figuring out the perfect system for recording my travel and I was flooded with the memories of my failed book club and the book journal that never materialized. I was determined, for the second time in 25 years, to find the perfect log for recording my upcoming travels.
The results are almost predictable, right?
I found nothing. Nothing. No matter what combination of words I entered, what populated were blank journals with a globe on the cover or some other travel-evoking image.
What Exactly is a Travelogue?
I’m not sure I would’ve explained it this way but an online dictionary said it is, “a movie, book, or illustrated lecture about the places visited and experiences encountered by a traveler.” The “illustrated lecture,” basically, means a slide show.
I don’t know. In a digital age it seems a little shortsighted to me. It also strikes me that they primarily mean that a travelogue is a visual record of travel and, funny, because my mind goes directly to a written record of travel when I hear the term.
For our purposes, let’s say a travelogue can be anything you want it be. It is simply a means to record travel and experiences where the traveler decides what “means” best capture all she/he/they want to remember.
My Travelogue…In the End
My system isn’t inspiring. It does the trick for recording where I’ve been and what I’ve done. But, I admit, it doesn’t even come close the picture in my brain of a travelogue.
I keep a record in three different places.
First, at the most basic, least detailed is a note in my paper calendar / planner. On travel days I write where I started and where I ended. On adventure days, I write the place I went.
Second, I keep a slightly more detailed running account in a Moleskin notebook. As a side note, in a very early post of this blog, I wrote about my love of and history with Moleskin notebooks that you might want to check it out.
Each entry is much like the one I list in my calendar but can include a sentence about my impressions of the place. I also paste up business cards of the campgrounds where I stay. Finally, it also includes a code on the far right so I know at a glance what information the entry provides. T = travel day. A = adventure. R = where I stayed; I think when I started it stood for RV park but, of course, it also includes state parks, Walmart parking lots, rest stops, etc.
The calendar / planner is always easily accessible for quick reference. On the other hand, after a year is complete, I pack the planner away to make room for the next one making it less accessible. So, the Moleskin notebook is a good record long-term. The very first entry was the day I left Alaska to go pick up my trailer to begin RV living. I added stickers to the outside, giving it a bit of a personalized as well as travel touch. Though in hindsight, stickers of places I’d visited would’ve been smarter. Instead, most of them are from my other RVing friends.
Finally, the maps, brochures and informational handouts I pick up along the way go into an envelope-sized accordion file. These are really helpful when I write the blog posts or when I’m making recommendations to those with whom I strike up a conversation. When I started, I imagined I’d paste these up in the Moleskin thereby creating a kind of scrapbook. But the problem, I knew from my first stop, was that I’d be picking up a lot and the volume would make the notebook too thick to be practical.
Even with the accordion file, after two and a half years, and downsizing it several times, it’s still filled to capacity. Still, I pull past brochures out more than you might imagine so I’m not really keen on getting rid of them. Not sure how I’ll address this. Maybe buy another accordion file?
The final thing I keep that is tangentially related is an Excel spreadsheet with every night’s stay. This is more for budgetary and year-end analysis reasons but, of course, it is a record of every place I overnighted.
So, there you have it. Like I said, it’s not pretty. Not even in the neighbor of the record I imagined keeping of my travels. But I have the blog and my photos and maybe, in the end, those are enough.
If you are a traveler—whether full-time RV or occasional vacationer—I’d love to hear how you record and organize your experiences. Do you call yours a travelogue or something else?
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