Motorcycle-Diaries' guide: how to write your own travel diary

Whether you want to be able to look back on your own trips during the bluesy winter nights, telling your future grandchildren about the bloodcurdling motorcycle adventures ‘pops’ or ‘moms’ used to go out on, or you’re even planning on publishing your memoires for a larger audience… Keeping a travel journal is always a great idea. But first - as Hemingway very craftily worded - “In order to write about life, you must live it”. Off you go.

 

Go analog

This might seem crazy, coming from a website, but hear us out. Chances are, you’ve left on a motorcycle trip to ditch the daily rat race, get away from deadlines and the non-stop 21st century pressure.

A life dictated by your smartphone, tablet and never resting company laptop - so why on earth would you drag one of those stress-bearers along? You’d be needing power supply on every stop - enslaving yourself once again to your electronic devices and being get-at-able on moments you’d rather be left alone. Nope. We’d suggest you taking a pen or pencil, and a notebook.

The good old fashioned way. If you ever need a computer, an internet café is never far away - you’d be surprised to find one in even the most remote parts of this world...

 

Pick the right ‘treasure chest’ for your memories

As much as we would love to say we don’t, we will very often judge a book by its cover - especially literally. Imagine having written your travel diary on a stack of loose papers, or the napkin of a restaurant in which you dined along the way - not only do you risk of losing those cherished memories as you go, but they’ll probably won’t make it onto your bookshelf at home and end up in a box on the attic.

Don’t skimp too much on purchase, as this book’s going to get battered around on your travels, and you don’t want it falling apart - nor during or after your trip. Therefor, we’d suggest buying a lightweight yet durable hardcover notebook: one with a solid binding or back, but not too stiff, so you can lay it open flat on a table or your lap to write and sketch.

Opt for a size which is large enough to hold postcards (usually 100 x 150 mm), but beware of oversizing: you want to keep it close too you for a quick entry on the go, so it’d better fit your backpack. And one last tip: you might want to check the kind of paper that has been used to produce your soon-to-be-journal. If you want to be able to read and look at your sketches until you end up in an elderly home, you might want to spend the extra buck for a journal with acid-free paper.

 

Don’t write too much

On the downside of the last tip: everything you write down, you’ll have to take with you for the whole trip - so if you don’t want to drag an entire library around, focus on the important or remarkable things. In order not to obtain a schoolworthy essay - ‘and then we… and then we... ‘ - you’ll be better off weighing your words.

Just make the effort to spend your first few words identifying when and where you were writing the entry - as if you were to write a formal letter: we’d include some sort of heading with both the day and date, plus the town you’re staying overnight, and the exact spot on which you’re writing your (daily?) story.

The latter might be the name of a hotel, the top of a volcano, or even traversing a river with your bike on a raft or vessel. Afterwards, sharing your travel stories at home - or even years later, when someone asks you for a recommendation, you'll want to remember some of the details of the day.

Write them down in bullet points and skeletal by drawing some arrows and throwing some words on a blank page: where you stayed overnight, the name of a great motorcycle workshop, where you got a great meal,… Rather than mentioning all of the mundane, focus on the details, the things which moved you.

 

Don’t hesitate to mention the negatives as well

As much as you’d like to talk endlessly about all the marvels you’ve witnessed during your travels, sometimes, the worse the experience, the better the story.

Just think of the anecdotes you’ll be telling your mates and/or relatives when you get home: the storm you so violently cursed when you had to unload your tent in the blistering rain, or the herd of wild horses which angrily chased you for miles, will without a doubt outlive the ones you would tell about everyday A-to-B-riding. Right?

The stories in which you barely survive, make a stupid mistake, suffer the odd bit or might make you want to return home are the ones you’ll dream and tell about for the rest of your life. Of course, the great experiences might do the same for you.

Just try to see the bad ones as the bit of spice that would make any dish tastier. And of course, if you write it down, you’ll be less likely to make the same mistakes again.

As Archibald MacLeish - the american poet/writer - once so strikingly wrote: “there’s only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience…”

 

Take photos along the way

While words can spark the imagination as you read them, it would be hard to capture as many details as you would photographing the same scene.

To complete your travel journal a camera is a must-have, rather than taking pictures with your phone - if you ever get stuck, you’ll be glad to have used the camera for the pictures and have some battery charge left to make the all-important call for help…

We know, we know: you cannot eat your cake and have it. And still, in this case we’d suggest taking a digital camera along, and not an analog one. There’s a bunch of rather good reasons for that decision. Firstly, storage space.

No, a digital camera is not necessarily smaller than its analog relatives, but the storage of film rolls will fill up your backpack in no time. If you’re lucky, one roll can take up to 36 exposures, and then you have to change it for a new one.

Yes, you can send them home from any city or village you might pass, but still. Another pro is the fact that you have an idea of the quality of your pictures as you travel on. Wouldn’t it be a shame to arrive home and discover that your camera must ‘ve been faulty or not light-proof?

Take two or three batteries along, which will have you going for about a few days to a week, and don’t forget to make backups of your SD-cards whenever you can. Just to be sure.

 

It’s not all words

A roll of duct tape and a Swiss army knife - most of the times, this is all you need to go McGyver if your motorcycle decides to break down or lose some parts, but those tools might come in handy to glue some memorabilia in your travel journal.

After all, travel stories are not just made of the things that you see along the way. A compelling entry will also capture what you heard, smelled, tasted, and felt during your travels. No details are too small, because they'll all help you recall the trip years down the road.

In order to ‘relive’ them after your trip, glue or stick some things you gathered and which define a certain moment into your journal: a ferry ticket, a sundried flower, a piece of volcanic rock or even a fine you received after a potential stupid misstep.

 

Take a good old topographical map along

Don’t plan too much ahead, as you might miss out on the real treats abroad - imagine having planned out to stay in hotel X on day one and hotel Y on day two, then you’ll be so focused on accomplishing those targets, that you might forget to actually enjoy being abroad.

If however, you go wherever the wind may lead, you’ll be more likely to spend some time at interesting places or with dito people. Excellent for the narrative side of the travel diary, but it’s always nice to be able to reconstruct where you’ve been.

Especially if you encounter some Motorcycle Diaries-worthy roads!

 

Write down your memories while they are still fresh

Reconstructing afterwards is easier if you’re travelling in group or duo, but when you’re devouring the globe on your own, you might want to consider to be a bit punctual about keeping up your travel diary.

Because, as you continue your travels, the experiences will inevitably pile up: one day you rode through the desert, the next day you’re knee deep in the mud after a rainstorm. In order not to forget what - in this case - the extreme heat and drought felt like, try to write down what you felt or saw before another experience jostles it towards oblivion.

 

Where next?

Explore the best roads & POI's around and plan your next trip based on those roads.

 


 

 

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