Living Abroad: How to Record Your Travel Experiences so that the Memories Will Last a Lifetime

Living Abroad: How to Record your Travel Experiences

If you’re living abroad, it’s easy to get into a routine of everyday life and forget to write or take photos. When I came home from my first few months living abroad in Spain I was left feeling like it was all just a wonderful dream and none of it had really happened. What made me believe and feel the reality of my time living abroad was flipping through my journal and reliving each memory through the words I had written and the memorabilia I had pasted inside the pages. Here are my 5 pieces of advice on how you can thoroughly document your time traveling in a way that will give you a flood of nostalgia every time you relive them and keep the memories living on for countless years to come.

5 Best Ways to Record Your Time Living Abroad

1. Take photos of the seemingly insignificant moments–
  • For me this was the best way to document every memory from the gorgeous palaces to my daily cup of coffee. Scrolling through my feed I would come across a picture of a cute café I used to sit at everyday or a photo someone playing guitar on the metro. These little, day to day memories were what truly represented my time living abroad. Not all the tourist sites I visited. Those were amazing too, but the real experience of actually living abroad in another country comes from all the things that make up your average day: the way your flat looks, the difference in street signs, the local grocery store, etc….
  • For me it was riding the metro to English classes or soccer practice, eating tostada con tomate in the café below my flat, trying the espresso from every café I passed to find the best one in the city, reading books or just walking through Parque Retiro on weekends. Often times the photos that are the least Instagram-worthy are the ones that hold the most memories.
  • In my journal, I only write on the right sided pages and I leave the left side to paste small polaroid prints or train, plane, and museum tickets. This way, flipping through my journal I have the visual memory right next to the description. And there’s just something so nostalgic about a journal that’s too thick to close all the way because it’s bursting with memories.
Living Abroad: How to Record your Travel Experiences
Not necessarily a photo I would post on Instagram, but man does this take me back to the memory of that warm chocolate filled croissant and soy cappuccino...
2. Write just enough to spark your memory–
  • Even though I love writing, keeping a journal felt overwhelming at times because I always wanted to write down every little detail that happened. Unfortunately, what would happen is that I would put off writing for so long to the point where I would just skip writing about a specific event all together.
  • You don’t always have to write an essay to ensure that you will remember a specific event. What I found worked for me really well was trying to capture the emotion more than all the tiny details of an experience.
  • At the end of the day I would just write a list of the places I had been and the emotions I felt; short, simple sentences that didn’t even make sense as a paragraph. Sometimes even just a long list of words that included locations, emotions, or things. These “mini entries” or “memory lists” were just descriptive enough to spark the memory in my brain.
Living Abroad: How to Record your Travel Experiences
This akward angle shot puts me right back on the noisy streets of Madrid. The shops and cafes, sights and smells all flash through my mind and put the biggest smile on my face.
3. Save tickets, travel documents, city maps, etc –
  • As I mentioned above, I really love saving entrance tickets or museum pamphlets, city maps or even receipts and pasting them into my journal. They add this magical touch to the memory that I can’t even explain. And I always think, man, in 20 years I’m going to look back at these and be shocked at how much things have changed since them. My 1 euro coffee in 20 years might be 5 euros in Spain and then I’ll pull out my journal and show it to my kids to prove it to them and they’ll be like wowww mom you’re so old and I’ll love it! Haha
  • Saving tour pamphlets or museum guides turned out to be a really fun reminder in my journal. Usually these guides are filled with photographs of the pieces inside the museum or other memorable things. I would paste the backside of the pamphlet in my journal, but leave the other pages untouched so that within my journal I could flip through the pages of the pamphlets. A journal within a journal if you will 😉
  • And at the end of the day there’s just something so enchanting about torn ticket stubs, city maps that are worn from all the use they got, polaroid photos and old receipts with chocolate smudged on them from the Chocolatería de San Gines (yes I saved it and no I am not ashamed of it)
Living Abroad: How to Record your Travel Experiences
The streets were always one of my favorite things to photograph because they always looked so different than American streets. The signs, painting on the ground and even traffic lights all demonstrate the foreignness of the country I was in 🙂
4. Share your stories with friends and family –
  • I’ll say it now and probably a hundred more times, I am a complete introvert. I prefer listening to talking and alone time to parties (ironic since this blog is basically me talking through a virtual voice). But I am so glad I would push myself to tell all my living abroad stories to my parents or my siblings or my best friends. When you repeat something to someone else, it helps ingrain it in your memory even better (that’s legitimate science, not just some blonde girl on the internet trying to be your memory guru).
  • So when there were specific moments that I really wanted to remember, I always shared them with other people and repeated them often so that they would stay with me forever.
  • I found that sharing these memories with others also helped make the experience feel more real to me personally. My whole time living abroad was so incredible that every night I went to bed I felt like I would wake the next morning and it would all be a dream. Sharing my photos and stories with others from home was a way for me to show myself that no, this wasn’t just a beautiful dream and I have the photos to prove it!
Living Abroad: How to Record your Travel Experiences
Maybe you see pretty architecture and unique balconies, but for me this photo is about the blossoms on the trees. I remember I was just about ready to go out and buy an eskimo parka because I was so tired of the cold winter and on that day I noticed the trees were finally blooming and I knew the Spring was almost here 🙂

5. Don’t forget to EXPERIENCE the moment-

  • One last thought that I really wanted to share was that in the midst of all your documenting, don’t forget to actually experience the moment. Whether I was in the royal palace or on top of the Pyrenees Mountains, I always would make a point to put my phone/camera away and just soak in the moment.
  • I like to snap a few pictures here and there to help stimulate memories in the future, but if you’re behind a camera the whole time then your memories will be nothing more than emotionless photos. A place can only evoke an emotion in you if you give it the time to do so. So take your photos, then put the camera away, save all the posting and photo editing for later, and sit back and let the experience wash over you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found something valuable from it! One of the things I love most about blogging is that I get to share my perspective, but I also get to learn from the experiences of others as well J  So please share your experiences and methods for documenting your travel below!

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Comments (2)

Sadly, I took very few pictures when I travelled as a young person. It’s such good advice to record memories. I have forgotten most of what I experienced.

Ah that is so sad, I am sorry to hear that! I hope you were able to keep a journal of some sort though so you can recall some of the adventures.

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