I have a confession to make: I am a time traveler.
I can’t jump back in time to different points in my life whenever I want to. I don’t use an elaborate steampunky device or use the chamber from Quantum Leap; I simply pick up one of my journals and read.
I have talked often about how journaling is helpful for future travel. You are able to have your own reference book on a location filled with the costs and places you visited in case you return or need to help a friend planning a visit. But for me the most amazing thing about the journal is its ability to transport me back, where I can see it as if it were yesterday, where the emotion of a moment returns, where I relive the moments my life changed.
The first travel journal I filled out was in the 7th grade when I spent time sailing the Chesapeake Bay aboard the floating classroom the Lady Maryland. I’ve since lost that journal, but it was very good as I remember. The second chronicled our family cross-country road trip to California and back, camping in national parks along the way. As a trip, it was okay, but I was a teenager and it wasn’t filled with my finest hours. The first real journal — the one that I reread almost every summer — was started in July, 1998 during my first trip to Greece, a trip I’d been looking forward to my entire life.
The prose is simple, the information recorded in a similar fashion, but the emotion it brings each time I read it is still there. I talk about how proud I was to get my passport stamped for the first time and told my brother and traveling companion Zach “that there would be many more.” I had no idea how true that statement would become. I remark at how small the Athens airport was and wrote the price of two bottles of water in drachma in the margin (400 drachma by the way) and know now that airport in the heart of the city and the drachma are long gone pieces of the past.
I then read a passage about making new friends and journeying with them to Napflion, an unplanned destination, and recall the apprehension and pride I had as “we had truly made this trip our own,” by deviating from the route my parents took in 1983. I wonder where Diane and her mother Anne are now, and briefly regret not keeping in touch. The pair from Wheeling, West Virginia were pleasant traveling companions and helped us loosen up and meet other travelers instead of keeping to ourselves. It’s a lesson I’m always thankful for.
Flipping ahead a few pages, I journey a few years into the future and learn a valuable lesson about hot dogs, beer, and early morning flights on turbo prop planes. The lesson: that’s a bad mixture of food and turbulence.
Skipping ahead a bit further, I can recall the romantic longings of my travels in England with my friend Kate. How I wished she could be mine, how I knew — we both knew — it would never work. She had a life there and I had one here. But we wouldn’t let that get in the way of our adventures in the countryside and night clubs of Britain.
I few years wiser and with pride I took my little sister, 17 at the time, and my brother as my traveling companions to Egypt. We had a common interest in history and for us this trip was to be the trip of a lifetime. How could I have known then that there could be more than one trip of a lifetime in a lifetime? But, when I read the pages of that trip I can feel the heat of the sun in the desert and feel the cool damp air along with the sense of awe as we stood in the chamber under the pyramid. I can literally get caught up in the moment remembering and thinking that “just being there was amazing” and how sharing it with my siblings made it more than just a stop on a tour. How could anything in my life top this?
The importance of a journal is not only to jog the memory about the facts, but to activate the senses and bring back the feelings of different places, the different people you share those adventures with and to look back at the different you, you were all those years ago.