Whenever I hear the word “tradition” my mind immediately takes me back to the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” And I hear Tevya’s voice belting out “TRADITION!” Oh, how I love that musical. How I would have loved to visit the tiny town of Anatevka! I suppose that’s really no surprise, as I pretty much want to visit everywhere. Over the years, I’ve created little traditions that we like to follow wherever we go on a trip – whether it’s a few months of traipsing, or just a weekend away.
Keeping a Travel Journal
When I was in high school, I was blessed to have one of the most amazing teachers of all time. He taught AP European history, and he was legendary. He made history come alive – as if the stories would jump right out of the history books and happen right before your eyes. So when he offered to take a group of us kids to Europe, I jumped at the opportunity. There was no coursework on the trip, but he did have one request – to keep a travel journal. His specific instructions were to avoid writing about how much we “missed our boyfriends and girlfriends” and instead to write about the places we were visiting. How we felt as we stared, slack-jawed, at the Sistine Chapel. What we thought of the local cuisine. What we would do differently on our next trip abroad. I’ve always been a keeper of journals and diaries, but this was my first experience with travel journaling. Ever since, whenever we go on a trip, I bring along a journal. I’ve stepped up my game a bit, and now I also include funny thoughts, realizations, and little phrases I don’t want to forget. I jot down what I eat. I also pack a teeny set of (TSA-approved!) scissors and a tiny tube of adhesive so I can cut out fun bits of ephemera and paste them in the journal. I am a hardcore minimalist packer, but I will ALWAYS make room for my travel journal.
Making the most of maps
Confession – I have a horrible sense of direction. I consistently get lost even though I lived in the same town for 30+ years. Everyone has a gift, and knowing my way around is not mine. I even have trouble reading maps. True story! I have to turn it to get the right perspective, and even then, there’s only a 30% chance I can find what I’m looking for. Luckily for me, I self-selected a partner that has a GPS embedded into his brain. He’s never lost, he never needs directions, and he can EVEN read a map that is turned the wrong way. It’s quite fascinating to me. In our early dating days, when we were still learning each other’s superpowers and kryptonite, we ran into some issues. We’re both classic non-planners and as we rarely had some sort of itinerary to follow, we’d just head somewhere, look around, and then ask each other – “ok, what do you want to do next?” And when I’d say “Hmm, we can head to Central Park and get roasted peanuts, he’d say – “We were just next to Central Park an hour ago, but now we’ll have to walk back across town….” These types of things can be super annoying if your super power is having a GPS embedded into your brain. So we came up with a new plan. You know those colorful tourist maps they have everywhere? The free ones at the airport, hotel lobbies, or information centers? When we arrive at a new destination, we grab one. And we circle all the fun things we want to do. If we find a restaurant we may want to try, we’ll circle the location on the map. We mark the heck out of them. Which, I’m sure many (most?) people do, but here’s what we do next: We bring them home with us and then we frame them. On the wall of our staircase, we have lots of colorful frames, filled with colorful maps, of all the places we’ve been together. Complete with our scribbled notes. It’s fun to glance at the maps and remember the temples we visited in Chiang Mai, or the vaporetto stops we made in Venice. Oh, and it’s free, one-of-a-kind souvenir!
When we were leaving for our honeymoon, my mother in law told us to find something special on our trip, a souvenir to remember it by. This was a somewhat foreign concept to me, as I’ve never been a “souvenir” person. When my parents traveled without me, I never waited impatiently for them to bring me back a physical item from their travels. What I was really impatient to receive were the stories of their trip. Little tidbits like the funny things that happened, the unique people they met, descriptions of what they ate. This was how I thought you remembered your trip – because these stories, these funny incidents would now become part of your very fiber. But nonetheless, I was intrigued. So as we set off on our honeymoon – heading toward a quaint bed and breakfast in Vieux Montreal, I kept thinking about what we could buy. It had to be romantic, after all it was our honeymoon. It had to be small, as we are notoriously light packers who refuse to take more than carry on bags. It had to be perfect. In between sightseeing and dining, we’d venture off into flea markets. Antique shops. Artsy boutiques. It was so much fun. In the end we settled on an antique servingware piece. (Which is hindsight, was neither romantic OR small) We’ve been married almost a decade, and have yet to use this piece, but everytime I see it, I think of our honeymoon. We realized the idea of finding a souvenir was fun, but we had to be a bit more practical and authentic. See the thing is, sometimes we like to venture off in search of the perfect item. But most of the time, we just want to see things and experience things. We’re not really into buying things. We like to pack ultralight. And while we can appreciate nice things, we don’t always like the responsibility that comes with owning expensive antiques or valuable items – especially ones from far away places that aren’t easy to replace. We like to keep things real – and with a dog and toddler, less is more. So we decided to collect…..key chains. Tiny. Inexpensive. Easily packable. Easily replaceable. We can venture into tiny shops to find the perfect item (after all, you need only add a chain to something to transform it into a keychain!) or we can quickly grab one at the airport, without much thought. We display these on a tiny Christmas tree in our bedroom, once a year. A simple, authentic, tangible reminder of our adventure.
Do you have any traditions or rituals that you like to follow on your travels? I’d love to hear them!
2 thoughts on “A Few of My Favorite Travel Traditions…”
Love these traditions!!! Especially keeping a travel journal!
thank you! They are so much fun to go back and reread!