I love to travel, and my favorite thing to do when I arrive in a new place is to go for a long walk to get acquainted with its sounds, smells and sights of the area. It is wonderful to explore a new city or neighborhood for the first time, turning down streets that look intriguing, peering into markets and shops, stopping for a coffee at a corner café.
I also love to eat, and most of the plans I make while traveling tend to revolve around appreciating local foods and beverages. My travel journal has become a record of the flavors I want to remember from my trips – whether I am trying to relive each delicious bite of a wonderful meal or I am hoping to recreate a dish when I get back home.
Journaling helps me remember the details of my travels that so often fade with time. What was that tiny restaurant with the incredible octopus in Malta? What was the funny new word for “delicious” that the Venetian waiter taught us? When I take quick notes about places I visit each day of a trip, these snapshots stay fresh and vibrant in my memory.
My husband and I have been living outside the United States for the past four years – first in Naples, Italy and now in Barcelona, Spain – and we have had the opportunity to visit beautiful and fascinating places. There have been many times where we have fallen in love with unfamiliar foods or met fantastic characters while eating our way through new cities, and I am always grateful when I remember to capture these delicious memories in my travel journal.
Here are a few ways I try to make the most of these experiences while traveling:
Jot down notes in the moment.
For me, it’s important to find a balance between enjoying the present moment and being able to remember the important details later on. If I don’t want to forget a tasty discovery, I will often write a few quick notes at the end of a meal – on the check, on the restaurant’s business card or in a notebook I carry with me. Even if it’s just a few words about the ingredients or the feelings I had while eating, it’s helpful to spark my memory when journaling later.
Food is a reflection of a place and the people who live there, and asking questions is an excellent introduction to different cultures and traditions. I enjoy talking to people in markets, restaurants and shops about the local cuisine – even if I don’t speak the language well, it’s a fun exercise in communicating with gestures and facial expressions. You’ll likely find that strangers are enthusiastic and helpful when you show an appreciation for their food. Some of the best cooking or eating tips I’ve received have come from vendors at open-air markets or proprietors of family restaurants.
Write the highlights before bed.
After a day of exploring a new place, I like to spend some quiet time with my travel journal before I fall asleep. I get overwhelmed if I try to record every detail of what I saw and did, so I focus on the highlight reel. I look at any notes I’ve taken and reflect on what was most memorable about the day, then free-write until I feel satisfied I’ve gotten the main ideas on paper. I know I can always journal more later if I want to go into greater detail on a topic, but it’s satisfying to write when my observations are still fresh. And there is nothing better than rereading past travel entries and getting excited for the next trip.
Gillian Burgess is a freelance writer and content marketer who lives in Barcelona, Spain. In her spare time, she blogs about food and travel at http://www.travelingtotaste.com/.