IF your family will take a vacation this summer, there’s no better time to start keeping a journal.
Perhaps you don’t keep a regular journal year-round, and the thought of blank space on the page overwhelms you and your kids. Never fear! Creating a written record of wonderful memories can not only be painless, but fun! Here are three great strategies to try with your 2013 travel journal:
1. Kaleidoscope Colors
When I was ten years old, I stepped into the rainbow world of Mexico City. In a swirl of memories, I can still picture my aunt crocheting a bright red shawl for my doll, Felicity. I remember reading my green clothbound copy of The Secret Garden as I sat on the grass in the front yard—a yard surrounded by flowers and guarded by a high gate. And I can see myself admiring the shiny, doll-sized copper pots in a shop filled with whimsical and mysterious souvenirs.
Looking back, I wish I had made more word pictures in my own travel journal. What color was the old-fashioned rotary phone in the hallway? What was the pattern of the patio tiles? I can still see the restoration team scraping the walls of an old convent, but what long-forgotten colors had they just uncovered from beneath the layers of paint?
Challenge your children to write a few lines each day in their travel journal about the colors that describe their trip:
- The pink sunset over Pacific Ocean cliffs
- The faded yellow motel billboard
- The plush royal-blue furniture on the museum tour
- The black seeds and rich orange flesh of a ripe papaya
2. Great Expectations
As I prepared to leave for college, I imagined what my new life would be like. I spent hours reading the campus guidebook, clicking around the website, and emailing alumni with my many questions. Yet none of my preparations could begin to compare with orientation week that August, when I explored the campus in person for the first time. It was then I learned that tour books are never quite the same as the real thing.
If you want to add a hint of drama to your travel journal, try the “I expected this, but found that” formula:
- I expected our airplane to fly above the clouds, but we were actually low enough to count the lakes and trace the farmland.
- I expected to be too excited to sleep, but I amazed myself by sleeping late the first three days.
- I expected the Mona Lisa to be huge, but the painting was actually pretty small.
3. Dining with a Sense of Place
One of the best parts of vacation is trying new restaurants and foods! We may forget the fast-food joints on the side of the highway, but we cherish the meals on a moving train or in a great-aunt’s kitchen.
When I close my eyes, I can still see the grilled salmon awaiting us on my uncle’s patio table when my family arrived in Colorado. I remember feeling oh so grown up when my friends and I stopped at the ice cream parlor in Jonesville on our rural-Michigan road trip. I can taste the sweet, juicy melon half I savored after a long, hot walk through the streets of Manhattan.
To capture a memorable meal in your journal, try using these prompts:
- Did you eat at an outdoor café, order from a food cart, or dine in an elegant restaurant?
- What was the mood or atmosphere? Festive? Casual and relaxed? Formal and serious?
- How did the food taste and smell?
- How did the chairs (napkins, tablecloths) feel? What sounds did you hear from the street or the kitchen?
- What did you notice about the wall hangings, centerpieces, and window coverings?
- If you ate outdoors, what else was happening in the adjoining street or courtyard?
Well, I’m off to write in my journal. I wish you the best of vacations, and happy writing!
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.
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