Memorable Travel & Food Journaling

Mary during our second visit to the Giant’s Stairs on Bailey’s Island in Harpswell, Maine, on September 23, 2018.

Travel Journaling

Many years ago most people kept diaries or journals of some kind. Teen girls would keep their diaries locked and close by so they could write about the boys they liked. Well-known historical figures, such as Einstein, Churchill, Madame Curie, Patton, Ghandi, and countless others wrote incessantly about where they traveled, what happened in their lives, what they’d accomplished or were working on, and what their opinions were on many subjects. I collect biographies and autobiographies, many being very technical because they’re from pilots such as Chuck Yeager and Jim Lovell. A constant journaler, Yeager also wrote a second autobiography in 1988, Press On! Further Adventures in the Good Life, that was non-technical, describing his love of and travels in the Sierra Nevadas and other nature regions after his retirement. Many professional modern-day traveler writers also keep journals. The late Chef Anthony Bourdain called himself an “essayist”, which pulled him into the limelight in 1999 with a piece in The New Yorker about the underbelly of restaurant work on the east coast. This became his breakout book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly, which vaulted him into almost two decades of award-winning travel television. All because he kept journals.

One of my own favorite travel writers has been Neil Peart. As the drummer for the now-retired rock band Rush, he’s also an avid motorcyclist and took advantage of the band’s concert tours to explore on two wheels. During a show a biker who was to travel with him on another bike would plan a trip for the next day from a good starting point. The show would end, they’d get on Neil’s bus (Geddy and Alex shared another bus) and sleep while the driver took them and their bikes in a trailer to the selected starting point. They would then bike hundreds of miles on two-lane roads (the bus headed for the nearest freeway headed in the same direction), ending up at the next venue before the sound check. Peart would also write about interesting foods he encountered. He would make reservations at obscure hotels, motels and restaurants under the Chef Elwood moniker (derived from his middle name) and would cook his own meals if where he was staying had a kitchen or an outdoor grill, with his flask of Macallan standing by at all times. And after his daughter and wife both died within a few months of each other in the late 1990’s he rode west across Canada from Toronto for an eighteen-month odyssey that countinued down into the U.S. from Alaska and ultimately covered almost 50,000 miles. His journals during this time became his popular 2002 book Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road, as well as being the inspiration for the band’s 2002 album Vapor Trails.

Travel journaling doesn’t take much, but if you do a lot of even local traveling like we do you’ll want to keep a record of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Office supply stores and department stores have both soft- and hard-covered books of lined empty pages for this purpose. Alternately, you can use a word processor app on a tablet or laptop. A simple couple of lines will work well for just about anything, such as:

  • 9/14 – Conway, NH – Breakfast at Priscilla’s, then shopping
    • Thoroughly enjoyed the Coonja rolls Priscilla’s is famous for
  • 9/14 – Mt. Washington, NH – A round trip to the 6,288ft summit via the COG Railway

Adding more detail about other experiences makes it come across as a bit more interesting, and more memorable:

  • 9/14 – Conway, NH – Breakfast at Priscilla’s, then shopping at Settler’s Green Outlet Village for birthday and Christmas gifts for the kids and grandkids
    • Thoroughly enjoyed the Coonja bread Priscilla’s is famous for
  • 9/14 – Mt. Washington, NH – A round trip to the 6,288ft summit via the COG Railway. On our way from Conway to Bretton Woods along 302, we encountered some of the hundreds of runners coming up the mountains in the Reebok Ragnar Reach The Beach Relay, benefiting JDRF. The goal was $100,000, they raised $119,648.

Food Journaling

I’ve written the food blog Luna Pier Cook since 2006, first as part of a collection of new local blogs at the Monroe News in Monroe, Michigan, until about 2009, and since that time I’ve written it on my own. Certain journaling techniques are useful for such a blog, and if you browse through the posts that date back almost twelve years now you’ll find a progression of both how I write and how I shoot photos. (There are currently just over 200 posts, down from more than 800 … I’ve deleted many that were based on then-current news and events that are no longer of interest.)

For example, on our way back to Lewiston, Maine, after our first trip through the While Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, we were looking for a place to eat when we spotted a place called The Local Hub in Greenwood, Maine. The place doesn’t look like much … It could be a converted hardware store or boat shop, without much on the outside. But it was the number of cars that got our attention, so we parked and went inside. We’re glad we did. As both a market with handmade baked goods, chicken pot pies, and preserves, as well as a cafe, the smells alone were enough to tell us we’d made a great decision to stop to eat.

The Specials menu board had but one dish listed on it:

The reference pic of the Specials menu at The Local Hub.

Having never had duck eggs before, I knew this was the dish I wanted, without looking at the rest of their menu.

The above image of their Specials menu is what I call a Reference Pic. There’s no way to remember everything about a particular dish, so I’ll either take a pic of a menu board like this one, or of the section of a printed menu where the dish is described, or of a photo on the side of a food truck with the description beneath it. Even when it’s something fairly standard, such as a roasted pork shank, there may very well be something unique about the dish in it’s description that you’ll want to remember later. I rarely post these particular pics, instead using them as references for blogging or journaling. The Duckin’ Good Morning at The Local Hub may be described simply as a duck egg scramble with veggies and a side of toast. But for food journaling I include it as “the Duckin’ Good Morning, three duck eggs, scrambled, with broccoli, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and havarti cheese, topped with microgreens, with toast of fresh–baked rosemary bread, at The Local Hub in Greenwood, Maine.” That description makes it memorable. I’ll then also shoot a decent pic of the dish when it arrives.

My first duck eggs on May 10, 2018, in the Duckin’ Good Morning, three duck eggs, scrambled, with broccoli, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and havarti cheese, topped with microgreens, with toast of fresh–baked rosemary bread, at The Local Hub in Greenwood, Maine.

But what happens if you’ve neglected to journal something? Maybe you’re out for a few days or a week or so, haven’t taken your tablet or some paper with you, and you loose track of what happened when. There’s an embedded solution to this. All image files contain what’s known as “metadata”. Describing how this works is quite complex, and varies depending on what kind of image file you’re talking about. But really, all you need to know is this: If you look at the file in a computer’s file system, say Windows Explorer, and hover your mouse pointer over it, an info window will likely pop up. On Windows this little window will give you both the date and time from the image’s metadata, which the camera (even a cell phone camera) has embedded in the image.

Hovering the mouse pointer over an image in Windows Explorer pops up this info window which includes the Date Taken. Note the next pic … Driving home from The Local Hub, Mary assisted at a rollover accident east of the restaurant, prior to police or emergency crews arriving at the scene.

Following is the current version of my travel and food journal of our time here in Maine. (You can download this PDF by clicking here.) At the top is a Key, illustrating how food experiences are included at a different level from the overall experiences. There can either be less detail or more … Again, it’s entirely up to you and how you like to describe things.

However you do it, be sure to make it memorable.


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