The Secret To Trapping Travel Memories

One woman’s quest to capture her trips across the world so her future children can see how cool she once was.

My First Scrapbook

During our first multi-country family trip in 1999, my parents had one request: my brother and I keep a scrapbook of our travels. Armed with a plain white sketchbook, glue sticks, scissors, and a pack of colored pencils, we embarked on a two-week trip to Israel, Spain, and Amsterdam.

The best part about this photo? The caption “I did not like it!” What a brat.

We collected mementos from every activity — museum ticket stubs, postcards, maps, informational booklets. — and decorated the empty pages of our sketchbooks. We filled the spaces in between with written highlights and daily recaps.

With anything a 9-year old sets her mind to, there comes a point when the effort required outweighs the perceived benefit. In my case, the steam ran out a few days into the trip. Our parents encouraged us to push through, which we did — and I’m glad, because otherwise I wouldn’t have the triggers for memories from a trip almost two decades ago.

The Journey of a Journal

Journaling is a familiar activity for me. From six-year-old ramblings and angsty teenage bemoans to the more thoughtful mental unloadings of my more recent years, I’ve always had something to write down, albeit inconsistently. Dates between journal entries range anywhere from days apart to multiple years.

Scrapbooking is different; it requires curation and consistency. The former I enjoy. The latter is a challenge. I’ve dabbled unsuccessfully in other record-keeping activities in an attempt to find a happy medium (no pun intended): a journal entry here, a single page in an undedicated sketchbook there. Alas, there are more than a few travel experiences that survive at the whim of my memory.

After planning my first big international adventure to Iceland and Ireland after a four year hiatus, I was faced with my lifelong conundrum: how do I experience this trip in a way I will remember and can share with family and friends?

I have found that the only social platform I enjoy using, Instagram, is also my most effective tool for recording photos, videos, and commentary. Video expresses what photos and words alone cannot. It allows others to fit snugly into our shoes and get a private tour of our memory bank.

How else do you capture the true depth (and slight terror) of standing on a 300 million year old cliff and looking out at a multi-story drop with the wind rushing by under the warm beams of a full sun and clear skies?

Watch it here>>

I found myself mostly posting in the evenings, after the fact. Being fully present in the moment during each activity was my first priority. But snapping a photo or video here and there didn’t detract from that. And reviewing all the footage at the end of the day was fun! It allowed me to reflect on everything we covered, which could be up to five different sites in a single day. Having that moment of reflection and review enhanced my experience by letting me stop to smell the roses, and pick them too.

Watch more here>>

The catch with my preferred documentation method: it’s all tied to Instagram. Downloading a full highlight or story is not an option at the moment, so my little virtual scrapbook may only exist as long as Instagram does.

I’m faced with the same conundrum: do I leave the existence of these memories to chance or find another way to transport them through the years?

What Matters Most

When I went home to take the pictures of my scrapbook, I told my dad I was writing this piece. He eagerly accompanied me in dusting off the old albums. “Have I shown you the ones your grandmother had us make when we went on our trips?” he asked.

Things to note: 1) My dad had beautiful handwriting as a teen. 2) Good luck trying to read it. :)

My dad was giddy as he turned the yellow pages, pointing out the drastically dated airline tickets, the polaroids of family members, and coaching me through the creative captions, written in his native Dutch.

It was a true snapshot into what travelling had looked like almost 50 years ago. And the experience of sharing those memories, page by page, was priceless.

While I’m enchanted by the analog, convenience drives me back to the digital. In the end, the jury’s still out — but they have time to deliberate. For now, I have my stories, I have pictures to continue posting as I relive various moments of beauty, and I have my memories to reflect on in the pages of my current journal.

Maybe there’s no perfect recording device. Maybe in the end it doesn’t matter.

What matters most is that we take the trips.

You can watch my highlights for daily stories and recommendations from Iceland to Ireland on instagram at @ilanasimone. 👋 See you there!