The second part of my discussion of documentation of study abroad/travel/life is written documentation. Keeping a journal (or even an agenda, scrapbook, book of lists, whatever!) is a great way to preserve memories in a more specific, detailed way. Actually writing out what you’ve done and how it makes you feel is a much different, more visceral way of approaching memory preservation than just taking pictures.
Yet again, I’m in the lucky camp here; I’m a writer. Aside from writing creative things, which I’ve loved working on while study abroad, actually–I also journal almost every single day, and have since I can remember. Here, I’m going to talk about some ways to encourage yourself to document your experiences, making it as easy and personal as possible.
I started journaling on my laptop a few years ago–I found that when tight on time, it just takes way too long to write things freehand. I would also cut things out or forget to include things in a pinch, and that kind of defeats the purpose of journaling at all. So, I just started a word document, which I’ve kept going for probably three years. It’s been the easiest, fastest way to keep up with documenting my life. I’m constantly on my laptop for school anyway, so I’ve found that right before bed, it’s super easy to just jot out my day before putting the computer away, or just doing it in between assignments or when I have a spare second. It’s also easier to add in things you forgot and fix mistakes– no crossing things out or drawing arrows. It’s also super easy to go back and read what you’ve written–you can even search keywords if you’re looking for something specific. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable to documentation with total ease and flexibility. Plus, you can include pictures!
Another thing I’ve LOVED doing is journaling by hand. Lately, it’s kind of reversed the cycle and taken the place of laptop-journaling. I bought a small Moleskine journal a few weeks ago; it’s a hard cover 5″ by 8″ ish sized notebook, with dotted pages. This is great, too; you can write in it every which way you want, draw, tape stuff in, whatever, but still be organized. I carry it with me everywhere; it’s super durable and so easy to take out no matter where I am. (This is a great recommendation for writers in general–the easier you make it to write, the more you’ll write. Having a place to put an idea that popped in your head, something someone said that struck you, reminders, images, random thoughts, anything, is a great way to use all the potential in your head towards a creative project.)
Because this journal is so small (but still easy to write in) and durable, I can take it with me everywhere and use it whenever I’m called to. One of my absolute favorite things to do is go to a favorite cafe, have a coffee or some tea, and write. For me, this environment lends itself to total concentration and involvement in what I’m writing–I don’t have the distractions of being home, there’s no to do list, it’s just specific time I’ve set aside to write. I’ve come to look SO forward to it. Plus, having a physical object that you’ve filled up with your life just feels good.
Try a few different approaches and see which sticks for you. Again, you will never regret writing down your experiences. Just taking a few minutes a day or every few days could make a huge difference in your memory.