Posted by: Ciaran | October 24, 2009

Reasons to love travelling #3 – Keeping a diary

I love to write, so I can never understand why I can’t motivate myself to keep a diary.  I start for a few days, write incrementally fewer and fewer words, and then mothball the project until the next year.  Repeat ad infinitum.  I think the problem is that I don’t really feel like I’m doing something that exciting on a day-to-day basis, so I only tend to reach for my diary if something a bit out-of-the-ordinary has happened.

But whenever I go away I love to keep a diary.  One of the reasons I like to do this is because you can pick up a great diary as a souvenir: I’ve got a lovely leather notebook from Italy and an amazing handmade journal from India.  But the main reason,  I guess, is the difference, the need to make a record of a little snapshot in time and preserve it. 

I take photos but I need words, too, to make the pictures stand up.  The pictures mean a whole lot less if you can’t remember what they are of, where they were taken, who you were with and what was going on at the time. 


Scribing away in the United Arab Emirates a few years ago

The brevity of travel means that it merits the extra attention of half an hour out of your day to write it down.  Looking back on what you wrote is, I would argue, even more important than looking back at your pictures: it reminds you of how you felt at the time, as well as what you did.  It captures your expectations and your fears as well as the ‘wow’ moments. 

And it can often be amusing, particularly when it captures something that can’t be taken from a still image, like a conversation.  When I was in India this summer I was privileged enough to be driven for some of the time by a wonderful gentleman named Riyaz.  He didn’t hold back, and my diary details many of his best comments to me. 

Perhaps this, though, was my favourite: “You have long hair…  You look like a woman.  If we put you in a sari and walked you down the street all the women would shout ‘Hey baby!’ at you.”  Thank God I had my diary handy.


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