Thursday 4 April 2019


I've been revisiting Australia. Not in person, you understand, but through the media of my notebooks and photos, and, to a much lesser extent, my memory. The impetus for this was a call from one of my editors for content to fill an Aussie-special issue coming up. "I can do that!" I thought. "I've been there so often, I've used it up! I've been everywhere!"
And (referring you here to the title of this blog), that's no way an exaggeration. I've been sent there for work many times, all over the continent, from the Tiwi Islands to Tasmania, from Ningaloo to the Great Barrier Reef. So you'd think coming up with story material would be a piece of cake. But - you'll have guessed this already - it wasn't. See, the thing is, you forget, don't you? Stuff merges, or evaporates entirely, and flicking through the notes and the pics is almost a revelation: Oh, yeah, that camel ride! The beanie festival! Boab trees! All those bats!
Maybe this is why those pedestrian types keep going back to the Gold Coast every year: because the detail slips out of their memories within weeks of getting back home, and all they remember is that they had a good time. So they're like my old grandmother, who had a pile of Agatha Christies by her bed that she just read one after the other, instantly forgetting each plot so that it was fresh next time she got to it.
That's fine for them, but what about me? I've been to so many amazing places that I'll never get back to, and it's all disappearing. Yes, yes, I'm getting old, I can't even remember where I left my phone or what was on the shopping list I forgot to take to the supermarket with me; but this is serious!
Is this why people have latched onto Instagram with such fervid zeal? Is it not really so much about impressing their friends, as compiling a file of memory aids? And writing blogs, ditto? A propos of which, it's a marvel to me that Moleskine (WHY that final e? Drives me crazy!) maintains such a presence in fancy stationery shops. People may buy those elegant notebooks with great intentions, but I've never seen anyone writing in one - whereas me, with my trusty Back to School-5c-special 3B1s, I'm jotting stuff down all the time.
Because I'm doing it on the run, though, they're untidy and scribbled, and full of destination-specific abbreviations that seem so obvious to me at the time, and which are totally unintelligible when I'm trying to decipher them back home again. I'm never going to sit down with one and read it like a book. Equally, I'm not going to set my editing program to Slideshow and just lie back to watch - mainly because I take so many photos that whittling them down back home is just too daunting a job and so I lazily just file them all away, with the result that the good stuff is smothered by all the crap shots. (Speaking of which, have you ever seen a professional photographer at work and noticed HOW MANY shots they take, constantly referring to their screens to review them? Maybe they're checking their histograms, but it still looks to me as though they're winging it. Shouldn't they know what settings to use?)
And there's another downside to fading travel memories: now and then, when my brain's in neutral (so, quite often, actually) I'll get a sudden vivid impression of somewhere I've been - a town square, a castle, some lookout - and it'll drive me crazy for ages trying to remember where it was. Lisbon? Rudesheim? Santiago? Honestly, the choice is so wide and the memory so tenuous, quite often I never get to the answer.
What's the solution? Don't go to so many places? Yeah, right. Only go to strikingly individual places, like Antarctica or Easter Island? Take clearer notes? Do memory-improvement exercises? Or just shrug and accept the loss and the drawing-in of the borders? Cripes. Depressing, much?


the queen said...

Just the other day Gary was dismayed because he “didn’t remember ANYTHING about France.” Of course, I reminded him of some highlights and remembered those - but he wanted to remember without any prompting. Of course I suggested we go back, but we have to be off vacations until family obligations will let us leave.

TravelSkite said...

Maybe it's because we're so busy dashing about seeing stuff when we're there that we don't take the time to be, as they say, in the moment? Less is more? Or, at least, more memorable?


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