When I’m travelling, I often feel like I’m playing catch up. Especially if I’m in a fascinating place such as Istanbul where there’s always something to be discovered and re-discovered (if you’ve been there before). Take the shimmering domes in the horizon as the sun rises, the heady mix of spices in the bazaar, the touch of cool marble in a mosque under the mid-day sun, the thick smell of grilled seafood by Galata bridge, the evening call to prayer as impatient drivers sound their horns…

In Istanbul, and likewise in many other destinations, there’s always something that catches my interest and attention. But before I can clearly and completely process my thoughts, the moment has passed me by. Like a fleeting whisper in the wind.

I try to note down my travel experiences in writing, often on scraps of paper that I happen to have on me. I end up with disjointed bits of information jotted down while I was on the move. Still, I find writing to be faster and more enjoyable than tapping letters and words on my phone’s screen.

When paper and/or pen is not available, I’d use Evernote or send myself a series of quick-fire emails with consecutive thoughts via my phone.

Sometimes I forget how much the smells and sounds of a place can affect my experience. Did you know that smell is the strongest trigger of memory amongst the five senses? How does one ‘capture’ a memory of a scent?

The camera is a handy tool for documenting things when I’m traveling. Though lately I find myself stumped by some photos that I had taken but had not labelled the files previously. “What was I trying to remind myself?” I’d wonder.

Maybe Paul Theroux was right when he said, “If you take pictures, you tend not to look very hard at the thing that you’re taking a picture of. If you don’t take pictures, you look very hard and you remember much more of the experience that you’re looking at.”

I’m envious of people who can readily sketch their surroundings – take Lisa of Satsumabug for example. Alas, I’ve little patience for sketching and limited aptitude for drawing.

What about you – how do you record your travel experiences and memories?

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2 replies on “Travel notes

  1. That photo brings back Istanbul memories for me, as do your observations on the sensory experience of the city (car horns and grilling seafood)! I was just thinking the other day about our conversations on photography, memory, and experiencing the moment — because I have a smartphone for the first time and am very much enjoying Instagram! This summer I’ll be traveling abroad again and I’m wondering how these tools will make my travels different.

    1. I’ve made a note to check out your posts on Istanbul, had missed them previously. If you’re headed to Istanbul any time soon again, let me know. This time, I’ve got my list of recommendations on Evernote 😉

      Would be interesting to hear about your experience with the smartphone. The quality of cameras on most of today’s smartphones is quite good. It’s terribly handy to be able to take a photo on the go with the phone – so I often have to remind myself to bring one of my other cameras if I’m traveling for a prolonged period so that I don’t forget about them!

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