I Found My Old Travel Blog — I Wish it Had Been a Travel Journal Instead
Reflecting on my writing from 5 years ago
Five years ago I took my first trip abroad. Defying my parents’ wishes in my first real act of young adult rebellion, I went to Italy, a country that is still very near and dear to my heart.
That trip held a lot of firsts for me— my first time on a plane, my first time in a foreign country, my first time trying to use my language skills outside of a classroom. It was an adventure ripe with many experiences that I still remember vividly.
I was a student at the time, studying communications and all things media-related. I had agreed to blog about the experience for my college to display on its website. I was excited about the idea (in no small part because I was getting paid for it).
As a student blogger, the expectation was that the content I produce has a certain degree of wide appeal to interest other students in the study abroad program. Having completed a semester full of blogging and social media assignments in my communications courses, I knew exactly what they were looking for.
My school really pushed the idea of “personal branding,” and going down the path of The Influencer™ was highly encouraged.
I began writing before I even arrived in the country. I shared thoughts I had from being 20,000 feet in the air for the first time. I talked about how grateful I was to not be alone on my first international trip. I wrote about what I was going to write about. I was optimistic and the excitement was palpable.
Looking back now, I was also clearly trying my hand at influencer-style content creation. All of the professional development training at my school really pushed the idea of “personal branding,” and going down the path of The Influencer™ was highly encouraged. Reading through these old posts and hearing my former writing voice, it’s easy to see how much of that shaped my approach to the blog.
As I saw what kind of posts they favored, I wrote more of those and less of what was actually on my heart and mind.
As my journey began and I really got into my writing, I remember there being certain posts that my college just didn’t use. I know it’s because they lacked the same marketability as the others. These tended to be the more personal writings that, five years later, I find the most interesting.
I wrote a post about the Pulse nightclub shooting and what it was like hearing about an American tragedy from an ocean away. It was skipped over by my school in favor of a more lighthearted guide to interning abroad. As I saw what kind of posts they favored, I wrote more of those and less of what was actually on my heart and mind.
I was in Italy for a few months, and I managed to churn out some good content in that time. The blog that I produced was primarily cute and fun. It had the upbeat voice of a college kid on her first adventure. Discovering it five years later hit me hard in the nostalgia center of my brain.
Initially, it was a nice little trip down memory lane. I had forgotten that I kept a blog at all during that time. But as I read I couldn’t help but wonder how many more memories I would have saved if I had just written about my experience instead of trying to turn everything I did into “content.” I wasn’t keeping any kind of journal at the time, so that blog is the only written record I have of the trip.
The posts were good content…But they weren’t memories, and five years later I didn’t care about them.
Most of my posts did contain a memory that I realized had been dusted over in my brain. There were pictures I don’t remember taking and details that had long since been lost in my mind. The ones that contained no memory at all were pure “content” — tips for students who wanted to get scholarships, glowing recommendations of the study abroad program I had chosen, etc.
Those posts made me the most remorseful. They were good content, especially from the college’s perspective. But they weren’t memories, and five years later I don’t care about them.
I wish each of those posts were instead journal entries about my language class that day, or even something as mundane as my walk to work past the waterfront.
I wish I had spent more time writing about all the foods that I tried and what the full heat of an Italian summer sun felt like in the middle of June. Five years away from the experience, those are the details I wish I remembered. Those are the images that I wish were sharper in my mind.
Reflecting on those old posts has reminded me that I need to spend more time writing for myself.
Nevertheless, I am grateful that I wrote anything at all. Reflecting on those old posts has brought back some pleasant memories, and it has reminded me that I need to spend more time writing for myself.
I have taken a lot of big trips since then, and I know a lot of the great encounters I had are now lost completely to time. There are friends I made whose names I don’t remember. There are places I visited that I would never recognize today.
On my next adventure (when it’s safe to adventure again), I plan to dedicate myself to capturing every bit of joy and wonder in the pages of a journal. There are some things that just can’t compete with the intimacy and self-reflection of time spent putting pen to paper.
I’ll do my best to record the good, the bad, and the interesting. Just for me. After all, in a few years, I’m the only audience that’s really going to matter.
Anyone else prefer travel journals?
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