"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December"
July 13, 2006 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Please describe to me your most interesting idea for a method of documenting a road trip.

The wifey, our two pups and myself are taking an extended car trip (starting in Florida, hanging a right at San Diego, again at Vancouver, once more somewhere in Maine, and then wintering in Tennessee).
I am looking for suggestions of meaningful, creative, and fun-to-revisit ways to document our 3 month journey. Mediums might include, but are not limited to: photos, written journals, recorded spoken word, video, collecting a particular thing from each stop, etc.
posted by iurodivii to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'll start the fun. If this were me, I'd get a camera phone and set up a free blog on something like Blogger.com. Blogger (and others) let you email blog postings directly from your camera phone, with a short entry attached. You could do more detailed entries from your laptop at the hotel in the evening.

All the storage and archiving is done automatically for you.
posted by jcummings1974 at 7:00 AM on July 13, 2006

I know this guy who creates really nifty travel journals. Very, very cool.
posted by unixrat at 7:01 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

On a trip I took to Europe, I created a travel journal very similar to the one unixrat links to. All handwritten, with ticket stubs, pamphlets (or pamphlet clippings) etc, all taped in; photos taped in after the fact and annotated, illustrations by my travelling companion (I can't draw). I still have it on the bookshelf and it's still fun to leaf through. It's totally low-tech, non-web2.0-compliant, but as an artifact, it's pretty neat if I do say so myself.

It was actually spontaneous—I hadn't planned on keeping a journal at all, but found myself one night writing on the back of some index cards I had along, and wound up starting over with a composition book I found at a drugstore, and it just snowballed.
posted by adamrice at 7:16 AM on July 13, 2006

I don't know why this thought even occurred to me, but now that it has, I'll just throw it out there:

In addition to taking pictures and videos, keep a written journal of your adventures, but write it in such a way as to indicate that you're actually on the run, being pursued by [Bad Guy of your choice for fictional reasons you can brainstorm with the missus], and you have to keep one step ahead of him at all times, hence the need to keep moving. You can have all sorts of near-misses, like when the dogs bark at night while you were stopping in [Nifty Town with these Nifty Sights], threatening to give away your hiding place, or your wife makes the mistake of telling a personal story to a chatty waitress at [Super Fabulous Restaurant in Whereverville], etc.

Again, dunno why this came to mind, but I was trying to think of something that goes beyond "Here are pictures of what we saw."
posted by Gator at 7:22 AM on July 13, 2006

My boyfriend and I had fun on our recent road trip by taking a lot of photos that included the small rubber duckie I have hanging from the rearview mirror of my car. We had almost as much fun figuring out good places to take photos of Cowboy Duck as we did seeing the places themselves.
posted by MsMolly at 7:23 AM on July 13, 2006

Do a video journal, and collect at least three things for each of your stops. At each stop describe the object and how it came into your possession.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 7:37 AM on July 13, 2006

The classic, but sadly under appreciated way of doing this, is postcards. They're harder to find reliably in the cell phone obsessed, email crazy age, but that's part of the fun. Take along a bunch of stamps, and go nuts mailing yourself all your roadside stand color fantasy stops.
posted by paulsc at 7:43 AM on July 13, 2006

I agree with paulsc - go with postcards. Then do a family scrapbook when you get back with pictures from the site. Plan on scanning/printing one side of each card so you can see both sides at once in the scrapbook.
posted by plinth at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2006

The last long road trip my husband and I took, I bought a blank journal, a used Poloroid camera, a glue stick and a pack of pens and pencils. Along the way, I wrote down things we saw or did or silly things that happened (as well as mileage and gas usage to be practical) and took quick snaps with the Poloroid and glued them into the journal right away. I also pasted in postcards, odd candy wrappers we encountered, and other ephemera. Ocassionally when I was bored, I'd write a poem or draw a silly doodle to pass the time.

Even though we have a photo album full of "real" photographs from the trip taken on "real" cameras, going through the journal helps us relived the whole trip so much better. In fact, I just pulled it out and read a short passage to my husband that left us both laughing out loud. Not bad for a ten year old vacation journal. :D
posted by Orb at 8:08 AM on July 13, 2006

Buy a really good, oversized road atlas, and try to find one with a durable, plastic cover (I used one from National Geographic, but I'm not sure what's out there at the moment).

At the end of each day, highlight the sections you drove on both the national map, and any of the state/regional maps.

It's been almost 8 years since I did my roadtrip (13,000 miles in 3 months - the jeep was never the same) and I still look back at that atlas with fond memories. Best of all, I'll never forget how to get back to certain spots that were worth a second look.

A second suggestion - stay as far away from interstates as possible. The back roads and county highways are definitely where the best travelling is to be found.

Oh, and read Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon .

Have a great trip!
posted by perelman at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2006

Draw the pretty things and views in a notebook. Even if you are a bad drawer, just try to follow the lines of what you're drawing, and it also looks good if you fill up a whole page for each one. I drew a picture when I visited the Grand Canyon. When I look at it, I can remember the view exactly, and for me, it's more evocative/interactive than a photo.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:21 AM on July 13, 2006

This, if you can pull it off, would be my ultimate document
posted by daveyt at 8:39 AM on July 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of Gator's suggestion, about a year ago I mocked up a weekend road-trip with a silly/playful Indianna Jones theme.

One of the things I also did on that trip was plug a geiger counter (scintillator actually) into my laptop, and graphed the background radiation of the trip as it changed corresponding to our changing geography. I wanted to do a bit more with that data than how I ended up using it, but I didn't get around to it. Anyway, example.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2006

I used to paste 3x5 cards in the gutter of my Rand McNalley Road Atlas next to the map of where I'd been. Sketches, text, photos, sometimes more detailed drawings of the area than the map for future reference. Occasionally drawings in the blank areas of the map, or snaking along lonely roadways. It contained a good five years of travels around the Southeast US, and got many positive comments from navigators.

Sadly, it was lost when my Honda was stolen. I haven't had the heart to try and replicate it.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:19 AM on July 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Well, 'bring a camcorder' is obvious, but to spiff things up, pass it around to everyone (assuming said pups are old enough - and, if the camcorder is cheap enough, even if they're not; bring a backup :-), and encourage them to narrate as they shoot.

Making the balance between "enjoying it now" and "remembering it later" can be a bit rough; that suggestion should lighten that load a bit, at least.

Get lots of B-roll, too: unnarrated beauty shots (stills and slow pans) of pretty stuff along the way, to make editing it down easier later.

Make the editing (and the learning-how-to-edit, if necessary) a family project, too; wait about a month or so after you get back.

Don't forget, you'll be able to include stills and at-the-edit narration in your final program, too; leave space for it when you shoot.

Make sure you let us know when copies are available. :-)
posted by baylink at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2006

Scrapbooks & drawings & postcards are awesome, and if you want to share online too, wayfaring (maybe platial too) lets you draw your route and pin pictures & stories to maps.
posted by Xelf at 10:20 AM on July 13, 2006

Give the kids lots of disposal cameras. Encourage them to shoot everything they see.
posted by frogan at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2006

I may be mistaken, but I do b'lieve when the poster said "pups" he meant...actual pups, not kids.
posted by Gator at 12:25 PM on July 13, 2006

How about doing some field recordings of the ambient sounds of the various spots you visit?
posted by woj at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2006

I think yahoo just released a new trip planner service.

posted by CXImran at 1:11 PM on July 13, 2006

Collect absolutely everything. I love leafing through old receipts, cards from restaurants, museum tickets and guide leaflets, tube/tram/bus tickets, menus, matchbooks and packets of sugar from cafés, flyers for clubs and gigs, clippings from local newspapers, vintage postcards from flea markets... everything I happen across that's small and local, basically. And I second Orb's suggestion to take Polaroids - you can write notes on them, or staple things to them.

Also, rather than using a journal, I carry one of these 'memo pocket' things and just dump stuff into it constantly, bundling each day's collection of crap with an elastic band or paper clip along with a note of the day's date and a few jottings on hotel stationery, then start again with the empty pocket the next day. I don't convert these collections into a journal format when I get home myself, but I bet reviewing and editing down the stuff with the kids and putting together a journal, or a making a collage, would be a fun project when you get home, and a way to extend the holiday feeling a little.

You'd be amazed how evocative this stuff can be - I just grabbed a bundle of ephemera from a trip to Stockholm, and a day travel ticket with stamps from each tube station I passed through on it and a receipt from a café paper-clipped to it immediately took me back to what I'd done that day, four years ago. And (though I'm not sure if this applies to a road trip in one coutry as much as foreign travel) regional differences in graphic design etc. really take you back to the place in a different way to photographs or your writing.

Obviously, this sort of thing works best in tandem with the other suggestions, but I really do urge you to collect the little insignificant things you happen upon as you travel.
posted by jack_mo at 2:23 PM on July 13, 2006

We have a large collection of smallish plain glass vials with cork stoppers and our tradition is to grab a couple of small things from every place we've been (sand from the beach in Curacao, a feather from a boa in New Orleans, etc) and put it in the vial for the trip and then label with a little label maker we have.

That might be a nice thing to do in conjunction with writing stuff down and taking pictures and everything - taking a little piece of different places with you.
posted by mckenney at 3:25 PM on July 13, 2006

I saw this documented on TV once -- it's along the lines of MsMolly's Cowboy Duck. Please be advised: I do not advocate theft!

A woman's cement statue of St. Francis disappeared from her front yard, which she reported to the police. Of course the police could do nothing. For a while she just let it go. But then, for two months she received in the mail polaroids of "Frank" in various famous locations around the country, accompanied by tales of his travels. Pioneer Square, Custer's Battlefield, the Brooklyn Bridge, Jackson Square, etc. One morning she woke up and St. Francis was back home.

I know there have been many imitations, and who knows if the kidnappers of Frank were original. But it's a damn funny idea. Perhaps you could unknowingly "borrow" an item from a friend or family member, and entertain them with a travel journal.
posted by shifafa at 7:02 PM on July 13, 2006

I'm going on a roadtrip next week so I've been watching this, but if one's still looking for a small object, I'm planning on grabbing a scratch lotto ticket (the $1 kind) at each state that has them. It's cheap and if you can find one that has some local reference, even better.

(I heard about this when I was working a rest-stop convenience store, selling cigs and lotto tickets...and thought it was the only interesting thing to be done with scratchies.)

Mckenny - I *love* the vials idea. Maybe baggies until we get home, though.

I may have to combine a bunch of these for this trip...wish I'd known it last yeah, when I drove to Utah.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:56 AM on July 21, 2006

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