Memories that Last

Recording your memories should be something you look forward to doing, it should be part of the experience. I have a friend who takes amazing pictures. She has a fancy camera and every evening during a trip she takes time to edit the coolest pictures and post them online. For her, the whole process of editing the pictures is a really enjoyable part of the trip; for others, creating a really cool scrapbook, or curating a great social media feed brings happiness.

I have only posted on Instagram 11 times since March of last year (and one of those was of the basil plant that is slowly dying in my office). I’m not a great picture taker and have the scrapbooking aesthetic of a below-average five year old. Often the “making memories last” part of a trip feels more like a chore than a vacation, but over time I’ve started brainstorming new ways of recording memories. Here are some of my favorites:

Bannack State Park, Credit: Roger Kasak, Assistant Park Manager

Take Pictures

Despite that little soapbox, it probably makes sense to start with taking pictures. It’s a classic, and pretty much everyone does it, even if they feel like they’re not great at it, or if they’ve found a more enjoyable way of recording memories. The beauty of the twenty first century is that you don’t actually have to be that tech savvy to get good pictures. Standard smartphones have crazy good cameras, and lots of photographers say that it’s all about the details – sure take a photo of the famous landscape, but also look out for the quirky, fleeting things that make your trip memorable. Even though I don’t post on social media, I take a lot of pictures, and I love going back through them and remembering past trips. I’ve made my peace with the fact that my pictures aren’t perfect and that the world isn’t going to stand in awe of my creativity.

Make a Travel Box

This our go-to. Whenever I travel my pockets end up filled with detritus – ticket stubs, receipts, brochures, museum guides, you name it. Instead of emptying my pockets into the trash, I dump all that stuff (ok, most of it, not the endless gum wrappers) into a shoebox sized box when I get home. Class it up by buying a cool box (go a step further and actually buy the box on the trip). You could even scribble the date on each ticket stub, brochure, etc. If we’re really on top of it, we might print off a dozen of our favorite pictures from the trip too. The whole collection can be as no-frills or fancy as you feel like making it.

Bonus: every time you pull out the box, you feel like a super cool archival historian, piecing together the story of your trip.

Bannack State Park, Credit: Roger Kasak, Assistant Park Manager

Sketch a Picture

Drawing a picture is one of the my favorite ways to remember a trip. Sitting down and making a sketch helps you slow down just a bit, and take in what is around you. And once you get started you might find that you pay closer attention throughout the day–always on the lookout for the next thing to sketch. You genuinely don’t have to be good at drawing (I like to included a clear caption to deal with the fact that my pictures end up pretty abstract), because this is about sparking memories, not being the world’s best artist. But, if you are wondering about how to up your game, National Geographic (of course) has a great article on travel sketching.

Make Tiny Video Clips

If sketching is all about taking a long, slow look at something, tiny videos are about taking the fastest possible look. 1 Second Everyday is a great app that helps you take super short videos everyday and then effortlessly compile them into thirty-second clips at the end of the month. If you are on vacation, you might want to take more than one video a day, but it’s pretty simple to make video montages these days. The key is to make each clip nice and itty-bitty.

Put Sticky Notes on a Map

This one is actually a tiny twist on my go-to planning method. Grab yourself a Montana road map, trace out your road trip route, and put sticky notes by all the main stops. Scribble down what you did. Boom, done. It’s another quick and easy one, and it could be a great addition to a travel box!

Keep a Journal

This one is another classic. Like a lot of the ideas on this list, I get so caught up in the idea of writing the cleverest, wittiest, most insightful journal that I never actually start. But the point of a travel journal isn’t to win a Pulitzer prize, it’s to spark memories.

Went on a hike. Saw a cool waterfall. Forgot the sandwiches.

That’s probably enough to vividly remember the day.