When it comes to reminiscing on my time in Florence this past summer, I immediately look through my photos, as most people would. It is amazing to have these visual representations of my trip, and usually a few memories come flooding back. However, just having a photo does not tell you the whole story and some of the best experiences end up forgotten. This is why it is important to journal. Writing down what you saw, felt, experienced on a given day helps you recall your favorite memories in a way that a single image cannot. I know, I know… writing is not for everyone and at times can seem like added work. The only reason I even got into journaling was because all of my roommates started to do it and I cannot ignore my internal FOMO. This is why I decided to take an unconventional approach to the standard journaling process. I love art and I love creating art, so I walked to the artists’ shop around the corner from my apartment and found a portable watercolor set, and a small sketchbook.
While abroad, I wanted to set a few goals for myself:
- Visit as many art history museums as my time allowed and
- Find a way to create while immersed in a place surrounded by the most important artistic influences of the old masters.
So, I created a visual journal. My initial goal was to paint “en plein air” or just paint what I saw out of doors. But once I began to journal alongside my images it was no longer about capturing scenes of my everyday life in Florence. The journal became more of a record of my events in which I could depict my experience artistically and then memorialize it by writing about what I ate, how I felt, and even inside jokes or laughable mistakes my friends and I made as we explored throughout Italy.
For example, on one of my Florence pages, I painted some of the gelato I had consumed, which was a lot, during the six weeks I was there! I was able to express my love for delicious gelato through watercolor, but then also write down my favorite shops, when I would get it, my overall favorite flavor, etc. It may not seem that exciting but reading about the lemon gelato I got on my way home from class several days a week brought such happy memories to my mind.
I also loved documenting my travels, like my weekend in Amalfi or the time two friends and I hopped on a bus and went to Croatia! Writing about my experiences and creating them in a work of art allowed me to internalize and really reflect on what I was doing with my time abroad and ended up encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone so that I could make more journal entries about my time.
Do not be afraid to start journaling if writing just “isn’t your thing,” find a way to make your experience meaningful through creating a travel Instagram and writing meaningful captions, keeping voice memos where you talk about your experiences, or maybe try your hand at visual journaling. The possibilities are endless, but the end result is the same. Remembering your time abroad is the best gift you can give yourself during this unique opportunity you are getting to experience.