For the love of a Travel Notebook

The writer’s notebook. Tucked away in pocket, backpack, or purse, it’s a longstanding tradition. And while technology may press to replace the ubiquitous writer’s notebook with something far more–er–digital, I can’t give in yet. I have too much nostalgia for the medium used by my predecessors and heroes: Hemingway, Muir, Jan Morris and Beryl Markham. These folks traveled, absorbed the landscapes around them, and wrote. Right there in the wild. And I strive to do the same.

As a traveler, I record my experiences not only for the sake of a reading public, but for private use by my husband and me. We have our favorite cities, and when we return to them, we don’t want to overlook a pub where we once drank excellent beer, or forget to ascend the steeple of an obscure church at a particular time. There is a secret beach on a Greek island which I want never to forget. While I could keep all of this in a single, dog-eared, college ruled notebook, I prefer to organize my thoughts and memories more precisely, and for that I like to use Moleskine’s City Series.

So far I’ve collected and used the pocket-sized, black-covered books for Paris, Dublin, and Zurich.

In Dublin, we visited The Queen of Tarts for breakfast on our last morning. We spent 15 Euro on a cappuccino, tea, and a bagel with cream cheese (or so the faded receipt, tucked between the pages since 2009, tells me). We stayed at the Paramount Hotel (in Room 218). We heard a choir rehearsing at Christ Church, saw the original drafts of work by Joyce, Yeats, and Wilde at the Dublin Writers Museum, paid our respects at the grave of Jonathan Swift outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and toured the Guinness brewery. The beginning of a thousand stories may be found in these notes, memories which otherwise would have been forgotten.

In Paris I jotted this down in the section labeled Names, Faces, Encounters:

Place Gustave–An enormous metro vent blows warm air up and around the ankles and knees of passersby. Children on tricycles busy themselves by bringing litter from around the square to toss into the draft. They squeal with delight when the scraps and bits flutter up into the branches of the trees overhead.

This is scribbled on a brown, paper placemat, quarter-folded and stuck between the pages. It turned out to be the first draft of my blog post on the trip.

Here, in these small, black books is the marriage of traveler and author. A safe place for evidence and recollections, to be accessed later, when the need for a story about those times and places arises within me.


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