mad in pursuit ireland


Trip Notebook

What kind of notebook do I take for my travel journal? This is one of my pre-trip obsessions, no lie. Especially for a semi-planned road trip to an exotic locale, the notebook is my constant companion — organizer, planner, memory catcher.

My Ireland notebook was one of my favorite formats: 80-sheet, 5 x 7-3/4, college-ruled, spiral at the top — not so small to get lost, not so fat too be intimidating, not so large to be cumbersome.

Advance preparation. Air travel info and a blank calendar page get pasted in. The calendar will keep the official final record of where we stayed each night. I pasted in a printout of all my Irish cousins' address book info. Yes, I have a Palm PDA that I dragged along, with charger, but on the road, paper is king. A cousin can take your notebook and make their own corrections — a more intimate exchange than having them gawk at your electronics.

Another piece of info: how to use my cell phone in Ireland. Important to add — once Carmel, her son Robert and I figured it out — was how to dial my American cell phone from within Ireland (001 before the area code).

For practical and sentimental reasons, on the back cover, I taped and folded in the Ireland map my mom sent me, with the highlight route that she and my dad travelled.

On the cover — esthetics and sentiment — a photo of my grandmother.

Finally, a small binder clamp to catch loose bits. This wound up holding the increasingly worn copy of my family tree, with all the scribbled notes from family conversations.

Travel journal. What gets recorded every day changes from trip to trip. I always start with exalted notions of what I'm going to accomplish. Some of my notebooks don't amount to more than dutiful diaries of sights seen. In Italy I focused on writing limericks and haiku.

On this trip, around Day 5, I decided to forego thoughtful artistry (because it wasn't happening) and just spew out everything on my mind. This is the "morning page" approach popularized by Julia Cameron's book "The Artists Way." The idea is to wake up, grab your notebook and write 3 pages of whatever surfaces from your brain, heart, soul, without editing or censoring yourself. Liberating, really.

I'm just now beginning to read through my ramblings. The faster and longer I wrote on any given occasion, the more interesting the writing gets. Well, to me anyway.


Electronic vs. paper. Corresponded with a guy who bought my old PDA, who uses his PDA with a wireless keyboard to take travel notes. Even a big laptop is too constricting for me. Pen to paper is real, something I can guard like my passport. Electronics... too abstract, too dependent on mysterious microchips... shit happens.

Big vs. little. You can think big thoughts and doodle profusely on an 8-1/2 by 11 format. Better for a single-destination trip.

Pens. It's a luxury to bring along a collection of gel pens to change colors with your whims. When you're living for 3 weeks out of a single carry-on, every cubic centimeter counts. This trip I limited myself to 2 black UniBall Vision Elite pens (regular UniBalls tend to leak on airplanes).


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