02 March 2009

Kids and travel diaries

Travel diaries are really important. Especially for kids. I know it's a hassle, and they find it a chore, but you must insist - and you should write your own to model the example to them. Yvette recalls that when she was eight years old, her family went on a four week trip around Australia. Every day her Mum and Dad forced her and her siblings to write in their diaries, no matter whether they wanted to or not. They considered it a bit of a chore. But they each filled an exercise book with daily entries, drawings, stuck in brochures from the places they went to, tickets, etc. Her parents still have the diaries and they are a wonderful reminder of all that they did. Without them, they would remember a lot less.

Since I first kept a travel diary 13 years ago my writing has changed. My first diary was very succinct. Yvette's mum said she could tell that my diary was written by a male. Yvette's diary of the same trip was littered with more experiential stuff, whereas mine read more like a catalogue. To be honest, it communicated what we did and where we went, but it is still not an overly interesting read. Still, it fulfills its primary purpose: to reconstruct memories in detail. For my later diaries I have tried to be less systematic and more descriptive - but I'm finding that as it changes the diaries have become unwieldy in their size.

Our eldest daughter - "The Bookworm" - first ventured overseas with us when she was 20 months old. She has no recollection of that trip (nor would we expect it) and she was in no position to record her own experiences in any way. She did take a small notebook to do drawing in, and from time to time Yvette or I would record simple sentences in it about what had happened during the trip.

Her next overseas jaunt was at age 5. Still a bit young for a travel diary, I created a "travel guide" for her. It was a little booklet full of activities (e.g. colouring-in; dot-to-dot etc.) which had a story (which I wrote) as its main theme. The basic premise was that there was a fairy which was trying to recover a host of treasures that had been stolen from fairyland, and she needed our daughter's assistance to find them. The things to find were located at various sights we were going to visit in New York and Canada. It worked brilliantly. She didn't complete everything (it wasn't meant to be "homework", after all) but she did try to find all of the sights in the treasure hunt. Some of the "missing fairyland treasures" included a crown (on the Statue of Liberty); a winged beast (Assyrian sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art); a castle (Chateau Frontenac, Quebec); and a unicorn (the tapestries at The Cloisters, New York).

At seven, The Bookworm kept her own written diary, though it was more difficult to motivate her to write than do a treasure hunt. In addition, we bought her the cheapest available digital camera and a large capacity memory stick for the Christmas prior to the holiday. She took about 900 photos - some quite amazing, others barely distinguishable - as a means of recording what she saw. Yvette and I tried hard not to direct her as to what she should photograph, and as a result she got an eclectic photo gallery of things which she viewed as important. Sometimes we had to remind her to take the camera out, or that "now" might be a good photo opportunity, but often she did it on her own. As well as the photos taken by the adults - all carefully planned and framed etc. - we have a lovely record of incidental things overlooked by us, including floors, walls, fish in ponds, and the chandeliers at Versailles.

Our youngest daughter - "Bendy" - did a colouring-in book to remember various parts of the holiday - though whether she actually will remains to be seen.

For the adults, Yvette kept a hand written diary. I knew I'd be verbose, and to keep our weight limit down I used the tiny Asus computer we took away with us. I managed to type about 40 pages in three weeks - most of which I'd have not bothered to write if I had done it be hand. 

I also purchase a blank art book (spiral bound, with blank A4 size pages) and stick in all the tickets, brochures etc. collected along the way (arranged in order). These form a sort of visual diary of the trip to accompany the written diary. Despite all the wonderful experiences that travel brings, it is amazing the details that you forget as time passes. Keeping a diary re-ignites those memories, and can help you to recall those experiences with greater clarity in the future. With kids it is vital. They simply won't remember it all - just the best bits, or those things which impacted them the most. A diary will record their perspective long after it has faded from their minds.

1 comment:

  1. What a thoughtful post; I introduced the concept of travel journals last summer; we decorated the covers before we left home. My kids got frustrated trying to write "everything" they did in the journal so next trip we will work on most/least favorite experiences of each day!