When it comes to journaling I’ve come to realize, there really is no “wrong” way to do it. The whole point is to let your creativity flow and to express whatever you’re feeling in a way that feels right to you. Although, I didn’t always feel this way.
Over the course of my childhood and into adulthood, I’ve dabbled in keeping a daily diary but never found the practice sustainable – which is ironic for a writer like myself. Often times, I’d beat myself up for not being more diligent with my craft. Sure, I could bust out a news article for the paper, or write a 15-page essay like nobody’s business, I’m a lover of penning long hand written birthday cards, and daily to-do lists, but when it came to journaling about my day – I’d usually get so far as “Dear Diary, Today I…” and get stumped, overwhelmed at the prospect of having to chronicle Every. Little. Thing. There are countless journals littering my childhood memento boxes, all half written in and proof of my perceived failure.
It wasn’t until a trip to New Orleans with some friends from college that the idea struck me that maybe I didn’t have to follow the formulaic cycle of chronicling everything in my life, I could just write about the aspects I found most interesting. In my case, it was food, specifically the food, restaurants, and bars I visited while traveling.
And so it began - I packed my bags, bought myself a small black leather journal, and began working my way through the treasure map of restaurants to explore I’d made for us before the trip. The result? A compilation of hand written lists of everything we ordered along with my personal notes on each dish. In between pages of my notes are mementos – a cocktail napkin, the paper menu the waitress let my take home, a business card or post card, my ticket stub from the concert, the receipt from the vintage shop we stopped in, a flyer for a bookshop – these journals are part diary, part scrapbook, part recipe book and stuffed with memories.
There is something so special about writing down the meals you ate and the people you experienced them with. It’s as though these specific moments are preserved in the pages of my travel journal – I re-read them years later and can instantly hear the clinking of glasses, the scraping of a spoon in the bowl of toasted Fregula; trying to round up every morsel & drop of sauce. I hear my friend’s bright laughter over the tune of the live band playing behind us. I can smell the crisp air that is filled with the scents of our meal, layered over the slight salty sweetness that permeates New Orleans in November. My memories of each dish eaten are captured so vividly within the pages of my journal that I can feel the crack of the crostini between my teeth, and the creaminess of the panna cotta as though they’re right in front of me.
Over the years, this habit of journaling while traveling has stuck with me all the way through my most recent 6-week backpacking adventure through Europe with my sister. We planed, trained, bussed, biked, and walked our way through 13 cities. We stopped in cheese shops, wine cellars, tapas bars, dance halls, and pubs. We noshed, nibbled, and chowed down with friends and strangers alike. We laid out picnics in parks, and humble spreads on the tray table of our train seats. And pressed between the pages of my journal are Polaroids at the dinner table, the corners of baguette bags from a French bakery, a label from a cheese I loved, the receipt from the best Döner Kebab stand in Berlin, lavender from our day in Provence, menu after menu carefully folded to fit in between each page, and quite honestly a fair amount of crumbs and probably sand.
Now, anytime I catch nostalgia setting in, I pull out my journal and flip through its pages, laughing at our adventures and savoring the memories of each meal. This is how I remember my travels; I like to think I’m capturing the best bits of life in my journals I'm capturing the best bits of life in my journals.
Guest Blog Bio – Kristina Kerley
Kristina is a cook, DIYer, cat lover, plant mama, and writer based out of San Francisco, CA. When she's not perfecting her rhubarb pie recipe or working on her latest house project, you can find her perusing her local book shop or biking through the park. Follow along on her journey at @kristinakerley on Instagram.