So I created GlobalJourneyer.com more as a private Travel Journal than a public forum. But if you have stumbled upon this website, feel free to browse and comment.
The art of keeping a diary or Travel Journal, I fear, is becoming a dying practice. In this digital age, it is so much easier to produce and share electronic pictures and videos than it is to take the time to write down your experiences on the road. While recording imagery is important, the art of the Travel Journal has its own unique strengths:
First, you capture your impressions – in words unique to you – of a meal, a city and its architecture, the local customs and daily habits.
Second, as your words pour out of your pen, you memorialize people you meet on your journey – the kind or surly shopkeeper, the local poor, and fellow travelers from other lands.
Third, you might find yourself recording the most mundane details (what time you awoke, the weather, what you had for breakfast, your worries and frustrations). If you are fortunate to read your Travel Journal years or even decades later, I guarantee these humdrum details will now fascinate you – because they help to revive the experiences and feelings of that particular moment, in that particular city. No photo could ever do that, with such feeling and detail.
I would like to think I am merely following in the time-honored tradition of prolific diarists (think Samuel Johnson, Thomas Jefferson, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and innumerable more writers listed HERE). But that would be a lie. I’m too lazy. Sometimes the camera wins, and the pen lies dormant – for years, even.
I’ve been fortunate to call three cities “home”: Honolulu, Hawaii; Washington, D.C.; and Orlando, Florida. Coincidentally, all three cities are top tourist destinations.
I’ve also been fortunate to host visitors wherever I’ve lived. As I have discovered time and time again, it takes a visitor to your home to force you, the host, to explore your own city. For example, I had never visited the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i, until after graduating from college, when a visiting classmate from Ohio asked for a tour. Similarly, how many Washingtonians have ever visited the underground cavern beneath the Lincoln Memorial, and not just stared at Abraham Lincoln’s visage above ground? Or how often have you visited your civic points of interest (the war memorials, the museums, the state parks) – and really studied them?
But perhaps my greatest fortune has been the recent discovery of some long-forgotten Travel Journals.
The first one was given to me by my father, Peter Leong, in 1975, when I was all of eleven years old. Flying from Hawai’i (my childhood home) to California (San Diego! Disneyland!) for the first-time ever, was a big deal. So was the bonus of visiting Arizona (Grand Canyon! Roadside “Indians” selling art & jewelry! Roadrunners!).
From a young age, my parents encouraged their three children to read and write (a lot) – and the dividends continue to pay off, decades later.
The second travel diary (Thanks again, Mom & Dad!) was written in 1977 during a family trip to the Pacific Northwest (Seattle! Mount Rainier! Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper and Banff in Canada!) and Idaho/Montana (ghost towns!).
An 11-year-old writes somewhat differently than a 13-year-old.
While the former struggles to put together a sentence and the diary entries are dry recitals of motels, meals and wake-up calls, the latter writes a bit more fluidly. Hopefully, the 13-year-old will have better powers of observation, an expanded vocabulary, and can provide finer details, impressions and feelings in his journal entries.
And what a difference a decade makes. In 1985, the most extensive of my Travel Journals recorded my Circumnavigator Foundation Round-the-World research trip over the span of three months.
The journal was nothing fancy, just a spiral-bound composition tablet you might find in your college bookstore or local stationery store. But its contents are gold, capturing long-forgotten people, memories and adventures.
When you are 21 and backpacking across eleven countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, your young mind is always racing: What exotic cities! Incredible architecture! Dirty bug-infested hotels! My feet hurt! Monsoons and oppressive summer heat! (I will add the lurid details in future posts.)
And by the time you have reached middle-age and beyond, your friend the Travel Journal will have matured with you, perhaps a bit more sedate, more introspective but still yearning to explore.
While you think you are recording the people and places you encounter, your Travel Journal is really a mirror unto you.
And thus began this website in February 2016, to resume a long-forgotten craft. We are, after all, only “the sum of our memories.”
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