How to Prepare for Stress-free Travel Memory-keeping

I think we can all agree that documenting our travels (whether it’s a day trip five hours away from home or an eight-day excursion in Japan) is one of the most exciting kinds of memory-keeping. We spend hours and hours researching our destination, perfecting our itinerary, getting that perfect shot and collecting those boarding passes so it would be a damn shame to just stuff all of those in an old shoebox. Or worse, in depths of your two-terabyte hard drive. Do you know that ticklish feeling you get when you stumble upon an old, old box filled with your travel memories? How your memories from several years ago would come back to you vividly? What if you can feel that way whenever you want or need to?

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No need to wait for Spring Cleaning or the next garage sale in order to unearth your “memory box” from an abandoned pile in your garage. Imagine this: a bookshelf lined with travelogues ready to be consumed for when the wanderlust strikes.

I like how that sounds. Don’t you?

Well, if you do (and I know you do!), this post is for you! In this post, I’ll talk about the kind of mindset that you need to have if you want to document your travels, what you need to prepare, what you need to bring on your trip and what you actually need to do to immortalize your adventures in albums and line ‘em up your shelf.

First things first, the intention here is NOT to complicate the whole documenting process and prevent you from actually living in your travel experiences. The intention is to prepare yourself AND allow yourself to naturally (and easily) document your adventures. You went on that trip for a specific reason - to relax, to satiate your curiosity, to seek new adventures, to meet new people - and not just to have a travelogue.

[clickToTweet tweet="Travelogues are by-products of your curiosity, wanderlust & your actual and very real experiences. |" quote="Travelogues are by-products of your curiosity, wanderlust, & your actual and very real experiences."]

 

It’s a crucial mindset shift that you need to make before thinking about travel memory-keeping. I know it sounds soooo serious and scary but let me tell you why do you need to make this mindset shift. This is what’s going to make the whole traveling and memory-keeping thing easy + natural + from-the-heart + organic.

You got that? Great, let’s dive in!


STEP 1. Ask yourself: what form of memory-keeping do you have in mind? What medium / format speaks to you?

Just a quick note, I will be focusing more on hands-on / tangible formats for this blogpost (let me know if you want a blogpost on digital travel memory-keeping!) because… it’s my favorite ;)

There are several formats nowadays for documenting your travels. Here are a few of the common ones:

  • Travel Journal - as in a notebook for all your travels / one notebook per trip to house your stories, photos, memorabilia, sketches, etc. A great example of this is the Traveler’s Notebook by midori*.
  • Pocket-page Album - as in an album dedicated solely to your trip. If you're not sure what this is, you can check out my posts about it here! (Spoiler alert: this is my favorite!)
  • Photo Book / Coffee Table Book - probably the best of both worlds (tangible and digital format) since you get to create your book digitally and print them out for a shiny and insanely photogenic coffee table book.

Photos by Abbey Sy / Kelly Purkey / from my Japan 2014 album

It’s important to decide what kind of format you’ll be doing for this specific trip. It’s okay to not be 100% certain BUT knowing which one you’re leaning towards will be extremely helpful from the get-go. When you know what format you want, you’ll know the answer to the following questions:

  • Do I need to keep all the tags and receipts that I accumulated throughout the trip?
  • Should I take photos with my phone, point-and-shoot or DSLR?
  • Where do I stick all the free stickers? Where do I stamp all the cute stamps?
  • Do I need to bring a journal? Do I need to pack this or that office supplies?

Here’s a little pros and cons chart for the three memory-keeping formats I mentioned above to help you decide which will fit your personality + the kind of trip that you’re taking:

Format

Pros Cons

I think this is perfect for...

Travel Journal
  • Easy to start one
  • You basically only need a journal, a pen and maybe some kind of adhesive.
  • Free-flowing
  • Extremely portable and travel-friendly
  • Not very friendly for photos
  • Stuff that you stick on it may fall apart as time goes by
  • Not very forgiving on mistakes/erasures
  • Memory-keeping WHILE traveling
  • Intimate and personal journaling
  • Sketching and drawing!
Photo Book / Coffee Table Book
  • Looks very sleek and professional
  • Takes up less space at home + easy to store and style with your interiors
  • Not messy, at all
  • If you’re not the type of person to get all “crafty,” this is perfect for you
  • Durable
  • You can’t keep actual memorabilia (you can scan it though and include it as a photo!)
  • Not a lot of flexibility in terms of layouts especially when using third-party services to create the book
  • Can get expensive real-quick
  • Photos make or break the book
  • If you don’t like “crafting”
  • Quick trips
  • Photography enthusiasts
  • Gifts to other people
Pocket-page Album
  • Extremely flexible in terms of layouts and medium
  • Can house memorabilia, photos and stories in the same album
  • Friendly for when you make a mistake - just replace what’s inside the pocket
  • Requires a lot of time and effort to complete
  • Needs more materials - album, page protector, adhesive, etc.
  • It’s hard to do on-the-go
  • Trips with LOTS of memorabilia or for including lots of photos
  • If you like to get messy and get creative

STEP 2. Get some photography inspiration! Check out what kind of photos other travelers take in your destination.

Memory-keeping and photography intersect quite a lot. Sure, you can do away with photos BUT for sure, it adds a whole new level of context to your stories. Photos + stories together make for some amazing storytelling.

One of the things that I think is a good practice is to hop on Google or Pinterest or Flickr or Instagram to check out what other travelers are doing in terms of photography. Why? A few reasons:

  • If you’re not a photography hobbyist or expert, it could be difficult framing and composing a shot that tells exactly the story that you might have in your head. That’s me. I loooove photos but I haven’t spent a lot of time studying and tinkering with the craft to actually *know* what I’m doing all the time. Spending some time (not a lot!) to check out the styles of photos that other people are doing can really help amp up your own photos.
  • You’ll get a lot of greeeeaat tips on the best places to shoot photos or amazing places to shoot, in general. Best illustrated by this example:

https://www.instagram.com/p/_RFMgTDRr0/?taken-by=pam.llaguno

Okay, I know that one was a fail BUT when it used to work, you’ll get a view of the entire Shibuya Crossing and you’ll see the sea of people crossing. I got a glimpse of it (before being told off by security) and it was really beautiful. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t done my research.

One important thing to take from this tip is this: it’s not about copying or duplicating other people’s style or work. That’s not the point. The point is to consume just enough amazing content to inspire you to widen your own horizons. There’s always something to learn from other people’s experience :)


Quick commercial break // This has been in the works for about a year and a half already... I'm launching an e-course on analog travel memory-keeping! I am PASSIONATE about introducing a better way to relive your travel experiences (yes, I am throwin' some slight shade on social media...), a way where you can TANGIBLY  flip through the stories of your past adventures.

This course - Craft Your Travel Story - isn't launching until May 2017 BUT I want to help you get started with travel memory-keeping while you wait excitedly ;) This is why I created this FREE comprehensive five-day e-mail course, The Travel-keeper Bootcamp!

Craft Your Travel Story - coming soon!

In this bootcamp, I will be sharing very practical + actionable tips, intentional systems and methods to help you document the details your travel experiences, take photos that accurately tell your stories, and gather ephemera as your "hard evidence." This bootcamp will prepare you a lot when it comes to finally creating your analog travel album.

You can join this bootcamp - did I mention that it's completely free? - by clicking here and signing up on that page or just leaving your name + e-mail below:


STEP 3. Research unique (and not so common) souvenirs or memorabilia that you can get in your travel destination.

Photos? Check. Stories? Check. Tickets, boarding pass? Check.

For sure, those are the usual types of things that we can see inside a travelogue BUT you can definitely up the ante by getting some unique-to-that-place memorabilia. Each country/culture will have their own unique thing going on so it’s a fun element to add to your travelogue.

For example, before I went to Japan last December, I stumbled upon a super cool souvenir idea from Texan in Tokyo’s video (Chichibu Pilgrimage) that I have never heard of before:

Travel-Memory-keeping

 

This is called a “goshuinchou” and it’s a temple seal book. Basically, for almost all temples and shrines that you visit, you can ask for them to add their “shuin” or seal to the book. That’s cool, right? There’s more. The seals are done by a monk in traditional Japanese calligraphy - with a sumi brush and all! Now, that’s 100x cooler.

Another thing: Japan loooooves stamps that almost every train station, tourist spot or popular store will have their own unique stamp that you can collect. Imagine having a midori Traveler’s Notebook and having stamps like this all over it! (This one is from Universal City Station, Osaka.)

Travel-Memory-keeping

 

Without a little bit of research, I wouldn’t have known all those cool souvenir ideas that I can use to add a little more context in my travelogues. Some examples of unique souvenirs/memorabilia can be:

  • postage stamps,
  • vintage postcards,
  • coins (as in actual money!),
  • packaging of food that you have locally to compare how it differs in different countries,
  • caricature painting of yourself and,
  • clothing tags.

STEP 4. Prepare your travel memory-keeping kit!

Now that you’ve got all the “mind-prepping” done, it’s time to actually prep your memory-keeping kit.

Okay wait, hold up.

I’m not saying bring your freakin’ 12x12” paper, rolls of washi tape or your 1238971 Copic markers. By kit, I mean the gear or things that you’ll need to make the documentation part of the process waaayyyy easier.

In my kit, I’ve got a few things that I believe to be *necessary* but this will change depending on (1) your method of scrapbooking, (2) your personal style and (3) what you can actually bring with you or what’s accessible to you.

 

Plastic envelope/s

Every time I travel, I bring with me a cheap-o plastic envelope that’s a bit thicker than the usual office supply one. I also pick a size that can fit nicely inside the bag that I will be carrying throughout my trip.

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I bring it with me anywhere I go on a trip so I can just shove in any memorabilia that I want to keep and potentially use in my album. I use a plastic envelope so I don’t have to worry about wrinkling it or ruining it by water. AND, important thing is I don’t think about whether or not I would really use the memorabilia. I just shove it in there and then when I’m actually working on my album, that’s when I’ll decide what to keep and what to toss. It’s always a bummer when I know I had the perfect memorabilia for a certain story but I tossed it during the trip itself just because I wasn’t sure if I was going to need it.

You can use any container or pouch really but I like using plastic envelopes because they’re lightweight and they prevent paper from folding. This is, for sure, a MUST for me.

One more tip: if you have multiple days in your trip, it might be helpful to have one envelope for each day so you don’t forget which day/store/place you got a specific memorabilia from.

 

Notebook/journal + pen

Because I know that I won’t remember all the little things that I encounter or notice in a trip, I like to keep a small notebook + pen with me at all times and just jot things down as I go. This was especially useful for me when I was jotting down the names of the temples and shrines that I visited since I went a lot of random temples that aren’t one of the more popular options.

When you’re planning on having just a Travel Journal, you can start filling in your journal as you go or you can stick on the memorabilia that you find along the way such as the train station stamps in Japan, maybe some vintage postage stamps or unique clothing tags.

For me, in general, having some sort of paper + pen is always important. When you’re starting to build your album, having some notes to complete your stories will be sooo helpful. Also, you never know when you’ll bump into your favorite singer and will need some paper + pen for their autograph ;)

 

Camera + memory card + charger

Need I say more? If you don’t have a camera to bring, you can always use your phone! Smartphones nowadays have so much photography capability that you can definitely get away with just using that instead of lugging around a bulky DSLR. (But of course, an actual camera will have more control on settings + better quality!)

One thing that people forget to bring is… back-up memory cards. I don’t know about you but I hate having to sit down on a trip and figure out quickly which photos to delete just to give my card more space. It such a mood-killer and waste of time. Usually, I will bring 32GB worth of memory cards (typically two 16GB memory cards) so I won’t have any issues about this. Also, I’m extra paranoid and I usually bring my laptop with me as well and I copy over all the photos at night so for sure I’ll have gazillions of space left in my memory cards. Yay, more snaps for me!

Travel-Memory-keeping

I also like to bring with me the Instax Share* printer so I can print polaroids and take more creative shots with it. You know, for those cool Instagram shots ;) You can utilize this in a Travel Journal by printing a polaroid on the spot and then sticking it in your journal. Easy peasy!

 

Portable tripod / selfie stick

Not entirely necessary but actually pretty useful! Selfie sticks make it easy to take photos with humongous structures such as temples, skyscrapers, castles… you know the drift. It’s always nice to include a little more of your background when you take photos of yourself. And YES, there is a way to angle the selfie stick so that the stick isn’t showing in the photo. Just experiment with it ;)

Another useful thing is this Joby Gorilla tripods* with bendable legs that you can wrap around somewhere and use as a portable tripod! Very helpful for timer shots where you want a more composed photo which is hard to do while balancing a selfie stick.


And that’s it! Four easy steps to ensure a stress-free documentation of your trip!

But before I go, let me leave you with some ~pro~ tips to up your travel memory-keeping game:

  • If you want to use Manual Mode to take photos BUT you’re not 100% a pro in it, I suggest that you take back-up photos in Auto Mode. This way, you’re sure that even if you messed up the manual settings, you’ll still have a photo of that amazing sunset over the beach.
  • Bring prompt cards like “Currently” cards that you can fill out when you’re chilling out a certain area like a cafe or a park. It adds a different level of connection with your own stories!
  • Take photos of signs before taking photos of the actual place/landmark/tourist spot. For example, take photo of the sign that says “Osaka Castle” before taking photo of the actual castle. Why? So you’ll know what you’re taking photos of when you’re scrolling through your camera roll. Especially helpful for when you’re visiting multiple things in a day!

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That was quite a long post! If you're still with me, thank you! I hope my tips will help you prime yourself for an easy peasy travel memory-keeping session :)


You know it already - YOUR comments + knowledge expand this post in the best way possible. If you have some tips and tricks up your sleeves or if you have some questions, let's chat down below!

 

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