Create memories by sketching

I’ve just come back from an awesome trip to New York, I’ve only slept for 6 out of the last 72 hours and I barely know what time it is, what day it is, and who I am, despite this I know that deep within my exhausted, dried out, reptilian brain are some great memories that I’ll never forget…how do I know this? Because I kept a visual diary of each day we spent in the Big Apple, using sketchnotes to capture our experiences rather than simply take photo’s (although I took a whole ton of them as well!).

Day one in New York, Where we were staying, a trip to a circus sideshow at Coney Island, rooftop beers and sucking at shuffleboard.

Interestingly, halfway through our trip, as I was making these sketchnotes anyway, my good twitter buddy and sketchnote maestro, Rob Dimeo, shared this tweet:

This really resonates, it’s such a perfect, concise quote about the differences between merely taking photographs vs taking time out to reflect and sketch your experiences in a new place.

The act of sketching helps re-inforce and solidify your experiences. Like all sketchnoters know, capturing talks and meetings in this fashion helps you remember the content better by creating extra cognitive connections, likewise, by combining the visual aspect, combined with extra context you add through words, you’re cementing your experiences in a way that is unique to sketchnoting. Photographs allow you to capture the time and place of what was in front of you, maybe the mood of the enviroment if you’re a skilled photographer, but sketching allows you to capture your feelings of what you experienced.

Day 2–3 in New York.

The extra context allows you to capture snippets of what was good, what was bad, how you felt, what people said, what you were thinking and feeling at the time. These are what memories are made of, not just places you stood when you snapped a pic on your camera phone.

An amazing birthday helicopter tour for my birthday.

They allow you remember, reflect and record, to note things down such as the route we took on our helicopter tour in the above image, or emotions such as my initial reservations about approaching the crowd on our apartment steps. These are memories about the things we did and how I felt.

Most importantly like all sketchnotes, these don’t need to be works of art, after all, holidays are for experiencing things over drawing them, so I didn't put myself under pressure to esnure they were perfect. I only had a crappy pad and pen to use, so they’re pretty rough… it doesn’t matter, sketching takes no special equipment or skills to adopt.

However, every time I had a few minutes to myself, I quickly doodled what we’d been doing that morning or afternoon, it became a habit and I truly believe it enhanced rather than hindered our visit.

Birthday in New York part one
Birthday in New York part 2

In the examples above you can see I captured quotes I heard from passing New Yorkers, or described the attitude that a Squirrel in Central Park exhibited. There’s no better way than through sketchnotes to capture this kind of thing.

I’m not saying abandon photos in the slightest, I love taking photos! I see sketchnotes as complimentary to them. Both mediums serve a purpose, just as that quote at the top of this article says, snapshots say “I really was in this awesome place, and look how cool it was!” The sketchnotes say “These are my memories and feelings about this awesome place, look how it’s affecting me on a deeper level”. They’re the thing that are recording the actual memories.

Some of my favourite photos from our trip, I love the fact they show the cool places we went, but they miss how I felt at those times.

Next time you go travelling, pack a pen and pad with you, don’t be scared of your drawing ability, these are for you and no-one else (unless you want them to be), draw logos of places you go & things you do, capture your feelings, notice and note down funny & unusual things that happen. I’m confident it will enrich your trips away, make you more aware of your surroundings, appreciate the new experiences more and most importantly create stronger memories than your usual photos would have done.

It would be awesome to see your travel sketchnotes when you make them, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, I’d love to see what amazing experiences you’ll capture on your travels!