Travel journals are a finicky business. In hostels or long bus rides, you almost always run into a (usually female) traveler scratching away frantically at a battered book, sitting out the conversation for a moment in order to better remember others. Or someone pulls out their notebook for you to write your email address in, and you catch little notes like "Manuel Antonio: Whale watching. Riptides!" or "Buy underwear!"
On the other hand, when you're the person scribbling or forcing people at penpoint to give you their personal information, a lot of the time a journal discussion beings. Some people say that they try to keep up with writing daily and always forget, or that they feel that taking down an account of an experience cheapens the real thing. Some make it a ritual to write each morning or afternoon, no matter what. Others still have traveled hundreds of miles to party, not to fucking read or write, and neither you nor God can make them, okay?
Where do I fall on this spectrum? Somewhere in the sloppy middle.
My first ever excuse to buy a beautiful travel journal was when was I was 20, right before I went to Europe. It was my first time out of the country and while doing some shopping beforehand, I somehow ended up at a Barnes and Noble. Have y'all seen their leather journals? All I can think about is Bilbo Baggins sitting around, writing There And Back Again in one of those things. I mean, that's totally what he wrote that in. Definitely. In everyone's imagination except Peter Jackson's, apparently. Anyway, so, I bought one. Because I had to.
See? I had to.
Of course I only filled it up about 10% of the way. I just didn't have that much inspiration. It begins gracefully with "Verona, Italy. October 10, 2009. Walking around with a 300 lbs backpack is hell. Just hell." Then goes on to skip a full week from Sevilla to Lisbon, which I reported as "weird" and "likeable," catches up a while afterwards with a brief but glowing review of Paris before summing up, two weeks and 4000 miles later, with an illuminated account of readjusting to life in the US, and subsequent reverse culture shock. ("I can't wake up tomorrow knowing that I won't be spending the day visiting a famous monument or museum." Yes, my diaries are of the angsty sort.)
This last time around, instead of just writing in the rest of the Bag End book, which was forever tainted with laconicism, my aunt bought me a neat little reversible journal that flips inside of itself to create two different areas. I used the unlined pages to scratch down invaluable advice for each city I was planning on visiting in Latin America (funny story: at one point before leaving, I flipped a little and tore out most of these pages to arrange them to fit my updated itinerary, never secured them in again properly, and they all flew out within my first hour in San Jose), and the lined section on the other side for keeping a journal.
I took this so you'd understand
Except I got bored. Real quick. The first few pages detail fretfully the woes of getting ripped off by an airport taxi driver, being hungover (as does every other entry), and white water rafting halfway across Costa Rica, which I resentfully describe as "obviously amazing and wonderful."
life is hard.
So, on the day that I accidentally put salt in my coffee instead of sugar, ended up giving up on life, and having a beer instead-all at about 9 am-Elwon found me trying desperately to come up with a decent explanation to my journal for my bad behavior. ("I am the worst at keeping a journal. I hate it. Last night I drank rum, bad rum.")
Despondent, I gave him the pen, and this is what I got:
a little like a yearbook, and a lot like a French fetish
Translated poorly, it begins with "When one wakes head still foggy vapor of the day, sometimes for resuming the correct wavelength is continued to drink." Which makes total sense when you're drunk and had a heatstroke the day before. Elwon's surly companion, who I deemed "the tall one," did not approve of this. Even though I totally gave him a glass of water and a damp rag and babysat him when he was throwing up in the common room toilet all night. Elwon also advised that if I find myself in a strange city and can't think of anything to put in my journal, to buy a local newspaper and write about the top stories. Smart guy, this toucan watcher.
He also left me with this piece of French brilliance, which I immediately scribbled down before I forgot it: "My father said to me once, when you have pass away, zen you have rest."
We can sleep when we're dead.
and on these nights, we do