I have never been very good at keeping a journal. Something attested to by the sporadic updates on this site. I’m not sure why. Maybe I get a bit too caught up in my thoughts and don’t manage to get them down.
It’s sad, because I’d love to have some clearer memories of my travels in my twenties. Photos are great, but they do not give you a sense of the things between sights. Like life, it is the small things that make travel interesting. I remember the big moments – riding a bike across the edge of the Sahara to see a lake full of flamingos; the first time I saw a Monet with my own eyes; watching the ball drop in Times Square; skipping through gardens in Austria pretending we were Von Trapps.
But I am sure there are other things that happened those mornings, or the day before or after, that I’ve clean forgotten. And you can never, really, go back.
Before I went to the UK for a visit last year, I bought an A6 journal and a travel watercolour set. I put them in my little red pencil-case and packed them without much thought of what I would do with them.
I landed in London and (after an awesome jet-lagged evening at Secret Cinema) jumped straight on a train to Edinburgh the next day.
Edinburgh was so much fun. It was great to be back in such a beautiful city, but mostly it was amazing to be amongst the festival and the streets that seemingly oozed with creativity (that and ghosts). I got to hang out with my friends and meet new people and ended up seeing lots of acts I’d never seen before.
During the day it could get pretty dreary and cold, but it was perfect for galleries and museums and movies. When we got home from the National Art Gallery I drew a little sketch in my journal.
The next day I drew some more things we’d done, including trying to get home at 4am in the rain. (That’s Shirley and Shirley with the string btw – do yourself a favour)
By the time I’d drawn everything we got up to the next day, I’d basically formed a new habit (well set myself a challenge at least).
When the sun (kind of) came out, I even went for a walk in the gardens and sat and drew the castle.
Back in London, I played with a few a few different styles. Most drawings were done quickly, where I was – sitting on a rock on the side of the Thames – or around the kitchen table when I got home. I found if I didn’t do them right away, they didn’t get done. There are still a few blank pages in my diary a year later where I have pencilled something in with the intention of coming back and finishing it later… maybe I will.
I captured either a story of a journey…
Or a particular scene…
Or a combination of memories mushed into a sort of postcard.
One day I just drew all the home grown vegetables I was stuffing myself with:
I drew my best friend and I as characters in a teen mystery novel, exploring the galleries in Italy:
And captured all the winding roads (and foods) of a day driving through Ireland:
(It was a particularly good holiday.)
Now, I take my journal with me every time I travel. It is lovely to find 30 minutes, maybe more, to take in and express the things I’ve seen and done. Even as I’ve written this, I’ve flicked back through the book and remembered laughter and meals and sunsets.
I hope that these drawings will help me remember them for many years to come.
You can see most of my travel diary pics on my instagram.