“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
My students have been assigned a travel writing piece next. There is a difference between travel journalism and travel writing. In travel journalism, the writer gives the reader good instructional information about where to go, what to do, what to see. In travel writing, the writer takes the reader on a journey with him (or her) and allows us to “see” the place through the writer’s eyes, tapping into all the senses, telling us stories so that we can relate and understand the subject at hand.
I’ve decided to write along with the students.
PK (pre-kids), my husband and I took two memorable trips that I documented fully in travel journals. I cannot tell you how much I value these journals. You know in the film “Leap Year” when Declan asks Anna what’s most precious to her…and he asks her the following question: “If your house were on fire, what would you take with you? What would you grab?” Do you know the answer you would give Declan? I do. Along with my photos, I’d probably grab my travel journals.
Why should you keep a travel journal?
It’s a documentation of a special journey. Let’s be real—soon after we experience something, we forget the details of it. We may remember that we had fun or that we met some great folks, but really, how much of the specifics will we be able to recall weeks, months, or years afterwards? Keeping a travel journal is a touchstone to that trip. If you like to write or consider yourself an observer of the world, you owe it to yourself to document your trip.
So, I recently opened my cherished journals, as I do on occasion, and took a look at them.
To quote Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday,” … “I’m sooooo happy.”
The fact that I expressed in writing the pleasures and nuances of my trips offers me the ability to go back in time and relive them, and not just through pictures. Pictures tell part of the story…the journal tells it in much more detail, allowing you to feel the emotion of the journey, the place, the people.
Here is an excerpt from my journal from our first trip to Italy:
“…In an impromptu decision, we hopped on a Vaporetto which took us across the way to Giudecca. Not knowing what to expect, this part of Venice was not as luxurious, except for the hotel. We managed to find our way over to the Cipriani. The hotel is closed until April. The concierge let us walk around and take photos. We took some out in the main gardens at the entrance to the hotel. These gardens were gorgeous in November; I can only imagine their beauty during the summer. As we were taking our final shots, the Cipriani taxi boat pulled up. The gentleman (captain) shouted “San Marco!” We were the only two there and because we were ready to go, we spontaneously hopped onto this boat. The old captain helped us hop aboard, and we had it all to ourselves as we cruised back over to San Marco. The ride wasn’t long enough, but we felt special and pampered aboard this lovely wooden craft with pink velvet seats on the interior. It had open exterior seating in the back where we were. We couldn’t help but smile the whole time, laughing and giggling to ourselves, feeling sneaky that we just got a free ride on the boat because he probably thought we dined at the Cipriani (the restaurant is still open, just not the hotel). We got a kick out of it. But that was one of a few special things that happened to us. We headed for Dorsoduro, a neighborhood on the south side of the island. We fell in love with this place. Of all the neighborhoods in Venice, this would be the one we both would choose as a home. The village has so much charm: cascading plants hanging from windows; adorable small bridges; muted, but colorful villas; clean streets; an artisan section with different shops; smaller, more intimate piazzas; and neighborhood folk strolling along, going about their daily business. Life is slower-paced here. Time actually moves more slowly. It is easy to fall in love with the simplicity of the place. There is no other place on earth like Venice.”
On our second big trip as a married couple, we went to England and stayed in London and then visited the Cotswolds for six days. Here’s what I wrote about my first visit to The Tower of London:
“…This has been one of our observations. Things in London aren’t as old as they are in Rome, say, because of the Great Fire. It destroyed so many things, from architecture to clothing. Quite a shame, really.
From there we decided to go directly to The Tower of London, knowing it would take a bit of time. Time it did take, but every moment was well worth it. The tour was fantastic and the guides were incredibly informative. The “Beefeaters” take you on the tour (otherwise known as the Yeoman Warders). They are your actual guides. Their knowledge and sarcastic humor make for an enjoyable learning experience. No one—not even they—know why they are called “Beefeaters.”
During our introductory meeting with the Beefeaters (as they were gathering the crowd around for the tour), I was the target of teasing. The Beefeater asked me if he could see my neck.
He said, “Nice neck. We like necks here.”
After teasing me during the introductory session, we began the tour of The Tower of London. Its structure is magnificent—it’s one of those places where you can sense the history just standing there. It’s one of those structures where, if you take a moment to close your eyes, you can “see” what it must have been like in those strange, medieval days. The thought of Anne Boleyn walking over to the scaffolding and kneeling down waiting to be executed is chilling. (Incidentally, the story goes that the man who was beheaded before her—I believe it was Sir Thomas Moore—had to endure five whacks to the head before the execution was successful. Anne Boleyn did not like this and actually hired a skilled knifesman to come and cut off her head so that the job could be done swiftly. The swordsman knew his craft and he her head came off with one clean chop)…
…The Tower of London was my favorite spot even though my feet were tired, my tooth ached, and I was hungry. That’s how you can tell, truly, if you enjoyed it. I loved one of the Yeoman’s lines when he said that the Americans get very upset when he mentions King Henry’s “Watergate.”
“That’s right,” he said, “We had it first.”
It’s just an example of my love for the British sense of humor. I think our photographs from this place will really tell a great story of the torrid Tower.”
When I knew I was going to do something on travel writing, I asked my friends if they wanted to share any of their own photographs to help whet your appetite for travel journaling. I am so pleased to share some of their photographs with you from their travels and experiences. These photos are rich, as I am sure the stories behind them are, as well. When you travel, you have much to share—stories, photos, recommendations, and love.
Thanks for allowing me to showcase your stunning photographs, friends…and remember, journal your trips. I promise you—you won’t regret it.
The Travel Gallery from Friends