by Nancy Bestor
This may come as a surprise to
some none of you, but I’m not as young as I used to be. I can remember very strange and obscure facts, like the fact that Gary St. Jean was once the coach of the Sacramento Kings, but I can’t remember the last book I read or how I celebrated my last birthday. Thus I learned early on that if I wanted to remember our vacations—where we ate, what we did, and what we saw—I was going to have to write it all down.
I actually started journaling my travels when my sister and I went to Europe for seven weeks when I was 16 years old. I wrote about how we were too cheap to go up in the Leaning Tower of Pisa, about how two women we met on a train stole some cheese and then got kicked out of a youth hostel in Zermatt, and about how two American soldiers kissed us (without our permission, gasp) on the steps of the train station in Venice.
When Bob and I got married and honeymooned around the USA for five months in a Volkswagen bus, we took turns journaling every single day. This might be a secret, but there are even lyrics in that journal to a song Bob wrote about our trip and about his blushing bride, while sitting at a campfire in Arizona.
These days I don’t write about strange men kissing me on train station steps (I keep those kind of really special experiences to myself), but I jot down as many details as I can—including trip costs—to help jog my memory when it’s time to write about my trip, or tell others about it. Consulting these notes/stories/factoids, in addition to looking at photos, seems to lead to even better recollections of things I did not write down.
I’d like to think my taste has improved with age, as these days I write in a small, skinny and very stylish moleskine journal. That would be compared to the teddy bear journal I wrote in when I was 16. (Don’t mock me, I was a young 16.) When looking back through my note books, I notice that some days my handwriting is pretty good, and other days it is almost illegible. We’re such a computer driven world that I don’t have many opportunities to criticize my own handwriting anymore. We’ve got friends who take a glue stick along on their journeys, and glue ticket stubs, stamps, and other fun papers they pick up along the way into their journal. I’m not that organized. I hang on to all those ticket stubs and fun papers, but just stick them loosely inside my moleskine.
Bob’s grandmother Lois journaled every single day from about 1961-ish until a few months before she died. I’ve been fortunate enough to read many of her journal entries. Some days it was as simple as: “went to the fitness center, had a visit from Bob and Nancy, saw the eye doctor.” While other times she told great stories in her journal, like when she flew to Alaska to meet her first grandchild (my husband Bob) in 1963 on a turboprop plane. She always won arguments with her husband about things that happened in the past (note to self), because she could go back and find out exactly what she was doing on any given day.
As my memory banks continue to suffer ever greater and more gaping holes, I’ll remain diligent about writing in my travel journals. If nothing else, they will remind me that you only go around once, and maybe you should spend the money to go up in the Leaning Tower of Pisa when you have the chance.