Looking back on over a decade of travel and six years of blogging, I have realized that I'm doing something right. The way I record and archive my adventures is the perfect technique for me. This methods helps me remember what I want to remember, and gives me a permanent record of everything I have done and experienced so that I can refer to it for accuracy way down the line.
I think I first realized how special my method was when my bus broke down in Malaysia. The drive hustled all us passengers into a McDonalds jut outside Kuala Lumpur, and there I sat for four hours talking to a young British couple who were also backpacking around SE Asia. Whereas our journey was just beginning, theirs was coming to a close. Over ten countries in 8 months, including a short working holiday in Australia. They must have had stories to tell. The problem was, they could hardly remember anything they did. They forgot how many countries they saw or how long they were in each place, or whether a certain event took place in one country or another.
“You know, after eight months,” the guy said, “it all just starts to blur together.”
I was horrified.
Here you spend thousands of dollars (or pounds) on the trip of a lifetime and you can’t even keep your memories. What good is it then, if it all just blurs together? I realized that this has been my greatest fear. I am an experience collector, and if I can’t remember my own experiences then what’s the point.
This was not the beginning of my archiving, I had been doing it for years since I went to Hong Kong in 2007, but this was the moment I realized how special it was. So here it is:
The 3 archiving techniques I will always do on trips
1. Record every expense
First, I need to know if I am meeting or exceeding my budget. This is very important so that I can maintain comfort and ease on the present trip, but also so that I can plan for the future. It’s also good to know where I splurge and where I save, because that shows me what is important to myself. For instance, I will always pay more for comfortable accommodations, because those influence the entire trip to me. But I don’t need to buy a lot of souvenirs or visit expensive amusement parks.
2. Record every activity I do each day
This doesn’t include repetitive tasks like brushing teeth and showering or packing. This is meant to include the cafes restaurant, sights, or people I visit. It also includes long activities that take more than one hour, for instance, reading at home. I also generally don’t record commute time unless it is greater than an hour. I go record the times I wake up and go to bed, and naps longer than an hour. This isn’t meant to be obsessive, but it is a very revealing piece of information. It shows me what I generally like and how I prefer to spend my time when traveling. This helps me set reasonable expectations for the next time I travel, so I don’t overbook myself or get bored. This log is not in narrative form, it is usually just a bulleted list with activities and times.
3. Journal as often as possible
You might say, with a record of everything I do, why would I need to journal? But there is a fundamental difference between journaling and recording. While the above mentioned is a list of activities, the journal holds my thoughts, feelings, and meaningful observations. The journal assigns value to those activates. The journal is how I know whether I enjoyed myself or not. I don’t need to repeat the activities involved in the day unless I am adding details – remember, I can always reference activity log for recap. I also don't’ need to analyze my thoughts or feelings unless I am somehow compelled to do so. Because of my journal, I will also know that I had my first travel breakdown in Hua Hin, Thailand. Or that every single day I wrote at the XinDIan Starbucks in Taipei I loved every moment of my time there. These thoughts and feelings are an important element to your story, and you need a way to preserve them.
There are so many advantages to archiving this way. This methods helps you remember your story, and provides detail and evidence for you to share. Don’t rely on your faulty memory and turn your greatest moments into a blur. Preserve them in all their richness for years to come.